I just went through this series of posts on diversity (link to the last post in the series) by William Briggs. Here, in India, one does not hear much about diversity and I have not spent time evaluating policies to promote it. So I was a little surprised to see a five part series on diversity, making rather obvious points to come to this conclusion:
The whole point of this laborious, pedantic essay up to this point has been to prove to you what you might not have heretofore granted. That “diversity” as it is used by its proponents retains no shade of meaning with its plain English sense. It instead is a code word; a dodge to hide ulterior motives, perhaps even motives not fully understood by the word’s users; a phrase having a purely technical definition which runs something like this:
Within in a scope diversity is the state of (maximal or proportional, whichever is more convenient to my politics) difference in behavior and characteristic, both of which are chosen from a narrow range most conducive to my personal likes and political goals. Diversity is not diversity—a state of difference; dissimilitude; unlikeness.—but unity with my desires.
So I went ahead and read the comment thread on the last post and saw some passionate defence of policies to promote diversity. In this post, I will present my position on such policies.
Consider a hiring decision for a particular position
There is a desirable set of characteristics as determined by the position itself. These characteristics can include physical attributes, intellectual abilities, work experience etc.
There is also a practically infinite set of characteristics that are irrelevant (depending on the position).
The best hiring decision is clearly one that ignores the irrelevant characteristics completely. However, it is important to recognize that the persons making the hiring decisions can be influenced by biases, perhaps unconsciously. Biased decisions hurt everyone’s interests. In a world where such biases (both conscious and unconscious) are very obvious, it is desirable to have a policy in place that prevents biases.
Avoiding biases is a difficult task especially when some of the biases are unconscious. It requires active thought and effort. Statistically, avoiding biases results in diversity of irrelevant characteristics. A policy to promote diversity substitutes the goal (avoiding biases) with its statistical results (diversity).
This inversion of cause and effect in social relations is the essential and defining characteristic of social engineering. Policies to promote diversity can thus be classifed under that same concept. The only difference between such policies and policies like reservations and quotas is one of degree.