Thomas Sowell

 If you start with the preconception that Japanese Americans were likely to try to sabotage the American war effort against Japan and then add a statistical anomaly, you are following the same procedure that leads in many other situations to the grand fallacy that preconception plus numbers equals proof.

 In reality, the Japanese Americans, who were largely farmers in those days, lived where they did for the same reason that the military built bases there: The land was cheap. In fact, the Japanese Americans were there first and the military then came in and built bases in their midst.

 It is so easy to go so wrong when numbers are added to preconceptions.

 The fundamental problem is that our legal system allows one side to impose huge costs on the other, at little cost to themselves. When a false charge of discrimination can force the accused to mobilize teams of high-priced lawyers, but making that false charge brings no penalty to the accuser, this is virtually a guarantee of a flourishing industry of legalized extortion.

 If I can spend $10,000 and impose a million dollars worth of costs on you, then the law is in effect enabling me to extort hundreds of thousands of dollars from you to go away.

 Wal-Mart has in the past resisted such lawsuits. Given the huge size of this one and the huge public relations hit that Wal-Mart could take if they go to trial, they may be advised to settle out of court. Let's hope they resist any such advice, so as not to encourage more legalized extortion throughout American society.

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

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