chapter  19
10 Pages

Positive Discrimination and the Equality Paradox

WithG. Gordon Betts

Positive discrimination (PD), or affirmative action—also known by the less forthright euphemisms of official targets and quotas—have been a feature of multiculturalism whenever ethnic groups are seen to be, or perceive themselves to be, disadvantaged. PD attempts to make good past discriminatory injustices and officially recognises victimhood. PD is essentially politically imposed social engineering. There has been litigation to overturn the 1978 Supreme Court ruling, and two other universities in California and Texas abandoned PD. In multiracial South Africa, in spite of earlier claims to the contrary, PD is legal and whites in the public service are discriminated against. Whether officially or unofficially practised, PD, like any system of preference, gives rise to the paradox of inequality, given that a basic tenet of representative democracy is that all members of its society should have an equal right of opportunity. PD may be well-intentioned, but it is blunt, crude, and unfair.