Outline of Shaw Essay

The Moral Debate Over Affirmative Action

Affirmative action is importantly different from equal opportunity.

Equal opportunity means that you cannot discriminate (It's a negative duty).

Affirmative action means that you must take positive steps to address imbalances that currently exist in the workplace. (It's a positive duty.)

1. In favor: it compensates those previously harmed by discrimination

Response: The burden of compensation is unfairly placed, for the most part, on those who are innocent of doing the harm.

2. In favor: It makes current job competition more fair.

Response: Disadvantage and discrimination are not limited to the groups represented by our affirmative action laws. Furthermore, it makes it less fair for white males.

3. In favor: We have a current legacy of past discrimination that locks members of various groups and communities into low-paying jobs.

Response: The negative consequences erase this advantage; it promotes renewed racial tensions and it reduces the self-esteem of its recipients.

4. Against: It deprives the "majority" (white men) of their equal rights.

Response: Competing social interests are frequently a reason to limit rights.

5. Against: It is inherently unfair and intentionally promotes inequality. It's just a new form of the problem it's trying to address.

Response: That's the price we must pay to address the current problem. Basically, you can't do good without doing some harm to somebody.

6. Against: Anti-discrimination, which is right, is sufficient. We don't need to add affirmative action, which is doing the harm.

Response: The ends justify the means. Experience shows that, without positive steps, there is no improvement in the employment of women and minorities in high-paying, high-prestige jobs.



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            Last updated July 20, 2009