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Affirmative Action Around the World: An Empirical Study (Yale Nota Bene S) Paperback – March 11, 2005
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Preferring members of specified groups in higher education, employment, receipt of government services, getting business contracts, and so on is a worldwide phenomenon whose effects are demonstrable. Black economist Sowell focuses on affirmative action in India, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Nigeria, and the U.S. In those nations, preferences for minorities metamorphosed into preferences for majorities (e.g., women, when made affirmative-action candidates in the U.S., tipped the numbers of the preferred to more than half the populace), intergroup friction increased (Sri Lanka, once a model of ethnic cooperation, descended into civil war, as did Nigeria), "brain drain" occurred (in Malaysia, preferences for less-educated Malays led to massive Chinese emigration and the ouster of Chinese-dominated Singapore from the Malay federation), and/or something else bad happened. Most damning is that in all five countries, the upper crust of preferred groups reaped the lion's share of benefits. Affirmative action is never rejected, however, because it is evaluated "in terms of its rationales and goals rather than its actual consequences." Invaluable argumentation, more accessible than usual for Sowell. Ray Olson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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I want to share a quick story related to this book. In 2004 while on cruise (I was active duty in the Navy at the time), our ship arrived in Port Kelang, Malaysia, not too far from the capital of Kuala Lumpur. A bus took us sailors into the city and cabs were lined up calling for Americans to get into their taxi's despite a group of Al-Quada sympathizers threatening to attack Americans (that problem was taken care of). Me and few friends hop into the cab and the guy seemed so nice but suddenly he went into a racist rant about Chinese people. He also hinted that some cabs refused service to the Chinese. I was shocked. If people of Chinese heritage were born in Malaysia, was it lawful for this man or any other ethnic Malay to refuse service? After reading Thomas Sowell's book, I realize that affirmative action in that country may have played a part in it. I don't want this for our country.
While there are people who may feel that affirmative action was founded to address wrongs, it only uplifts one race over the other. We can do better than this. And let's be frank, no matter how many opportunities you give people, some people, regardless of race are their own worst enemy. Rising from poverty to become something better takes a tenacity and discipline and I should know. I grew up a poor black girl and the eldest of three in the state of Alabama. I now have a bachelor of arts in history that I received from the University of Washington and will start graduate school in the next few months. But my upbringing and the negative things that I have seen brought me to the conclusion that Mr. Sowell is right. Affirmative Action programs do not address past wrongs. The programs brings more headaches and animosity and should just go away.
My only criticism is that, as an economist, Thomas Sowell does not really track this practice back to its Roman Law roots - i.e. the notion that because a business is "open to the public", it is a "public" concern, with "public" being twisted to mean "government". This legal reasoning undermines the very basis of private property and freedom of association (which must, logically, include the right not to associate).
In Affirmative Action Around the World: An Empirical Study (Yale University Press, 2004), Thomas Sowell takes a global view in examining group preference polices in the U.S., India, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, and Nigeria. Whether called affirmative action in America, "positive discrimination" in India, preferences "reflecting the federal character of the country" in Nigeria, or "sons of the soil" preferences in Malaysia, Dr. Sowell looks at the similarities in the rationale behind the policies of these aforementioned countries, as well as their actual consequences.
One of the most damaging results of affirmative action in American higher education is the abysmal graduation rate of minority students admitted to elite colleges and universities under lower admissions standards. What makes this phenomenon even more disheartening is that many of these students would be perfectly suited to succeed at academically less rigorous schools, yet are "pervasively mismatched" into schools for which they are not adequately prepared, thus almost guaranteeing their chances of failure.
Dr. Sowell shows how the notions, rationales and assertions supporting affirmative action are widely accepted without being tested empirically. When they are put to the test, they usually do not pass muster, and the mounting evidence of their negative consequences is either suppressed or altogether ignored.
Any citizen desiring an objective, unvarnished understanding of affirmative action would be served well by reading this book. Whereas much has been written and said about the idealistic goals of preferential policies, Dr. Sowell sheds much-needed light on their actual consequences, in the United States and around the world.
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