The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday rules that Affirmative Action is no longer legal. Affirmative Action (AA) has been used to influence decisions about hiring workers and about admitting students into colleges and universities. Its supporters say AA has improved the lives of millions of minority people. Its distractors somewhat disagree.
Beginning in 1961 and continuing through 1963 and then 1965, executive orders signed by Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, AA made it illegal to discriminate against minorities. This allowed many minorities to get jobs that they may not have gotten. It also allowed some students of color to enter the most prestigious universities.
But making an action illegal is different than giving preferential treatment because of race. At one time AA even set quotas for the number of minorities in an organization. Quotas were eventually struck down by the Supreme Court.
The most recent case involves the use of race as a factor when determining admission to a university. At prestigious universities, race is often a significant factor.
While many focus on the positives of AA, there are some negatives to individuals, and there are some important negatives to the economy. For individuals, AA often meant that someone lost their spot at a university to a student with similar or even slightly lower qualifications. but with a different skin color.
While it is true that people of color generally have a more difficult time in many areas of life, to the qualified student who loses their opportunity, that had little relevance. For every student admitted because of race, there is a student of a different race that lost their opportunity.
In the long term that makes the economy less efficient. It tends to lower productivity and reduces the standard of living. The higher quality students would probably be more productive than a lower quality student.
That’s not to say that people of color are lower quality students. Indeed, some of the brightest minds worldwide are from people of color. But in situations where race allowed a student with slightly lower qualifications to be accepted over a student of a different race, the economic system suffers.
Today the Biden administration says that diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) should be a top priority. That means, they say, that DEI is more important than actions that could be more productive and profitable. Companies or institutions that place DEI as the top priority could suffer lower productivity.
What is best for the economy is that the most qualified workers are placed in each position. That ensures maximum productivity, maximum profit and a higher standard of living.
Some would argue that profit and increased productivity should not be the primary goals of business. Rather, a more diverse workforce that includes all people and provides equal opportunity, regardless of qualification inequalities, is more beneficial.
But businesses’ top priority (I would argue the only priority) is to earn the maximum profit. That is done by providing their consumers with exactly what they want at exactly the price they are willing to pay. If customers want products made by a diverse group of workers, then a firm will maximize its profit by giving consumers just that.
In most instances, while some consumers say they want a diverse workforce, their primary concern is purchasing products that best fit their needs, regardless of where or how it was made. That’s why China has prospered selling goods in the U.S. market.
Thangs are changing today. Many consumers are now concerned about how the products they purchase are produced. If enough consumers take this position, then the companies will have to change in order to make the highest profit.
The point is that without AA, students will be admitted based solely on qualifications. That means the most qualified will receive the best opportunities. It certainly seems unfair that some individuals are born into difficult circumstances, but that’s just the way it is.
From now on, students will be admitted into colleges based on the content of their character rather than the color of their skin. Isn’t that what all of us really want?
Michael Busler is a public policy analyst and a professor of finance at Stockton University in Galloway, New Jersey, where he teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in finance and economics. He has written op-ed columns in major newspapers for more than 35 years.
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