What is good discrimination?

Gintas writes:

Your recent discussion about the falsity of the racism and discrimination charge gives me an idea. Since non-discrimination is the core liberal doctrine, perhaps you could start a discussion about why discrimination is good, and open it up for comments on all kinds of specific discriminations. Obviously immigration is a major example, but maybe we could cover the gamut, so that in future criticisms of the idea of discrimination, we could point out, “We’re not in favor of any discrimination. But certain discriminations are necessary, and here are some of them.” We need to be armed, so as to pull the sword and strike at the heart of the Beast.

LA replies:

This is a good idea. We need to distinguish between necessary/proper/good discrimination and unnecessary/improper/bad discrimination. This is something that liberalism never does, because liberalism considers all discrimination to be bad; moreover, it considers every type of discrimination to be equally bad. To the liberal mind, keeping Muslims from immigrating into America would be morally indistinguishable from rounding up and exterminating Jews. Or, as the editor of a respected conservative magazine said to me a few years ago, “If we stopped Muslim immigration, we would be as immoral as the terrorists.” Such is the liberal world view that traditionalism challenges. By distinguishing between good and bad discriminations, we would be providing the outlines of a traditionalist society, which stands for certain values and discriminates on that basis, as distinct from a liberal society, which is against (or rather claims to be against) all discrimination.

Discrimination is necessary for the same reason that the human body has a skin and an immune system, to keep out or suppress that which would sicken or kill the body. The skin is analogous to a society’s external borders; the immune system is analogous to its moral ethos, its shared notion of what it will not allow. A society defines itself by that which it permits and by that which it prohibits; by that which it regards as normal and acceptable and by that which it regards abnormal and unacceptable. So, in addition to compiling a list of the good or necessary discriminations that would be operative in a good society, we could also compile a list of the bad discriminations that are made by liberal society, the things it admires and the things it excludes. Such a list would take us beyond the false claim of liberalism that it opposes discrimination, to the reality of liberalism, which is that it also discriminates in order to maintain the power of liberalism and exclude that which threatens or resists it.

Also, on the question of good discriminations, it is not just a matter of excluding or permitting things; there are middle areas, where something is partly admitted, and partly excluded.

For example, a Catholic conservative acquaintance once explained the idea of discrimination as follows. He said that a church is open to converts, but recent converts should not be allowed to run the church. The reason for this is that even though the converts may have the faith of the church, indeed, their faith is often stronger than that of life-long members, they don’t yet know the traditions of the church, its way of doing things, all those things that go beyond the fundamentals of religious belief. So while a church community does not discriminate among believers as to who may be a member, it should discriminate between long time members and new members when it comes to positions of leadership and influence. In the same way, as I argued the other day in my exchange with Ken Hechtman, in a traditional society members of a minority or recent immigrant group would not be allowed into positions of social influence until they have shown that they are fully assimilated members of the society.

There are traditionalist insights. No liberal, neocon, or mainstream conservative would have thought of saying such things, because they relate to the particular and organic nature of a community, and to concrete differences among individuals in terms of their respective capacity for participation in that community. Further, only persons who have experience of that community, and who care for its well being, can understand the qualities that are helpful to it or harmful to it. Such concrete knowledge, derived from experience, is the opposite of the abstract formula, “discrimination is wrong, all discrimination must be eliminated,” which is the ruling principle of modern liberalism.

Here is another point that may help us think about discrimination. All discrimination occurs on what I call the vertical axis or the horizontal axis. Vertical discrimination discriminates between the higher and the lower, between the good and the less good, between the more true and less true, between the more capable and less capable, and so on. It involves value judgments of better and worse. Horizontal discrimination discriminates between what is more like us and less like us, and does not involve value judgments of better and worse. On the simplest level, we associate with people who are like us, and don’t associate with people who are unlike, without any negative value judgment directed against the latter group. Of course, horizontal and vertical discriminations may often overlap. Thus if we say that people of radically different cultures should not be allowed to immigrate into our country, that is a horizontal discrimination. We are making no value judgment on that culture; we are just saying that it is different. But we might also say—and inevitably will start saying if we have been so foolish as to let that culture enter our society en masse so that we can’t avoid seeing it close up—that objectively that culture is worse than ours in important respects, which would be a vertical discrimination.

Thus the reason mass Hispanic immigration should not be permitted into this country is that Hispanics, especially in large numbers, are unassimilable to our culture. But it is also the case that Hispanics are less intelligent than white Europeans, and will inevitably change our society from one based on a population with a 100 average IQ, to one based on a 90 average IQ.

As Gintas suggested, in accumulating examples of necessary discriminations, we can start filling in the details of a traditionalist society. Readers are invited to send their ideas.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at February 24, 2009 01:23 PM | Send

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