Thomas Sowell

This column is Part II in a multi-part series. Click here to read Part I.

No dogma has caused more mischief-- and, in some countries, tragedies-- than the notion that there is something strange and wrong when some groups are "over-represented" or "under-represented" in some occupations or institutions.

This dogma is so widely accepted, and so deeply entrenched, that no one asks for evidence and no speck of evidence is offered.

Moreover, tons of evidence to the contrary are ignored.

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Over the centuries, and in countries around the world, all sorts of groups have been disproportionately concentrated in particular occupations and at different income levels, and have had radical differences in their behavior, from rates of alcoholism to rates of crime and infant mortality.

Often some minority, with no political power, has outperformed the dominant majority in lucrative or prestigious professions-- the Tamils in colonial Ceylon, the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, the Chinese minority throughout southeast Asia, the Huguenots in France, the Ibos in Nigeria, the Japanese in Brazil, the Lebanese in West Africa, the Jews in medieval Spain. The list could be extended almost indefinitely.

Yet, through sheer assumption and repetition, the opposite view-- that any "under-representation" of any group in desirable situations or their "over-representation" in undesirable situations must be due to the way they are treated by others-- has become the prevailing dogma of a secular religion.

Not only the media and politicians, but intellectuals and even the highest courts in the land, presume discrimination when some groups are "under-represented" in an employer's workforce or are "over-represented" among children disciplined in school. Tests that show some groups more proficient than others are declared to be "culturally biased." Higher infant mortality among some groups are assumed to be society's fault for not providing "access" to prenatal care for all.

A major factor in the housing boom and bust that created the present economic predicament was massive government intervention in the housing market, supposedly to correct discrimination in mortgage lending. How did they know that there was discrimination? Because blacks were turned down for mortgage loans at a higher rate than whites.

Thomas Sowell

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

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