Spoiled brat politics

Thomas Sowell

10/11/2005 12:05:00 AM - Thomas Sowell

An editorial in a recent issue of the National Geographic's "Traveler" magazine complained that kayakers in Maine found "residential development" near national parks and urged its readers to use their "influence" to prevent such things.

 "You are the stakeholders in our national parks," it said.

 Really? What stake do kayakers and others of like mind have that is not also a stake held by people who build the vacation homes whose presence offends the kayak set? Homeowners are just as much citizens and taxpayers as kayakers are, and they are even entitled to equal treatment under the 14th Amendment.

 The essence of bigotry is denying others the same rights you claim for yourself. Green bigots are a classic example.

 The idea that government is supposed to make your desires override the desires of other citizens has spread from the green bigots to other groups who claim privileges in the name of rights.

 In California a group of golfers in wheelchairs are suing a hotel chain for not providing them with special carts that will enable them to navigate the local hotel's golf course more comfortably and play the game better.

 According to a newspaper account, the kinds of carts the golfers in wheelchairs want "have rotating seats so a golfer can swing and strike a ball from the tee, the fairway and on the green without getting out of the vehicle." If golfers want this kind of cart, there is nothing to stop them from buying one -- except that they would rather have other people be forced to pay for it.

 One of the golfers in this lawsuit has been confined to a wheelchair as a result of a diving accident and another as a result of a gunshot wound. Apparently the hotel had nothing to do with either.

 There was a time when people would have said that the hotel is not responsible for these golfers being in wheelchairs and therefore it has no obligation to spend additional money for special carts in order to help their scores on the links. But that was before the Americans with Disabilities Act, under which the hotel is being sued.

 If the government wanted to do something for the disabled or the handicapped, it could have spent its own tax money to do so. Instead, it passed the Americans with Disabilities Act, which created a right to sue private institutions, in order to force them to spend their money to solve the problems of individuals with special problems or special desires, whether serious or frivolous.

 It was a lawyer's full-employment act, creating another legally recognized victim group, empowered to claim special privileges, at other people's expense, in the name of equal rights. Nor could such legislation make the usual claim that it was coming to the defense of the poor and the downtrodden. Golf courses are not the natural habitat of the poor and the downtrodden.

 One of the plaintiffs in the golf-course lawsuit is a former managing partner in a large law firm. He says, "I just want the same opportunity as everyone else" to "get out and play 18 holes with my friends and colleagues."

 Equal opportunity does not mean equal results, despite how many laws and policies proceed as if it does, or how much fashionable rhetoric equates the two.

 An example of that rhetoric was the title of a recent New York Times column: "A Ticket to Bias." That column recalled bitterly a time before the Americans with Disabilities Act, when a woman in a wheelchair bought a $300 ticket to a rock concert but was unable to see when other people around her stood up. This was equated with "bias" on the part of those who ran the arena.

 Even now, decades after this incident, the woman in the wheelchair declares, "true equality remains a dream out of reach." Apparently only equality of results is "true" equality.

 A recent publication of the American Historical Association shows this same confusion when it says that doors "are largely closed" to people who want to become historians if they didn't graduate from a top-tier college. In other words, unequal results proves bias that closed doors, according to this rhetoric.

 Confusion between equal opportunity and equal results is a dangerous confusion behind many kinds of spoiled brat politics.