Thomas Sowell

Some years ago, a study of National Merit Scholarship finalists found that more than half were first-born children, even in five-child families. Jews are less than one percent of the world's population but they won 14 percent of the Nobel Prizes in literature and the sciences during the first half of the 20th century, and 29 percent during the second half.

It would be no problem at all to fill this whole column -- or this entire page -- with examples from around the world of gross statistical disparities in outcomes, in situations where discrimination was not involved. But those who take the opposite view -- that numbers show discrimination -- do not have to produce one speck of evidence to back up that sweeping conclusion.

Human beings are not random events. Individuals and groups have different histories, cultures, skills and attitudes. Why would anyone expect them to be distributed anywhere in a pattern based on statistical theories of random events? Much less make the absence of such a pattern become a basis for multimillion dollar lawsuits?

However little evidence or logic there may be behind the belief that an absence of random distribution shows discrimination, there are nevertheless strong incentives for some people to cling to that belief anyway. Those who lag behind -- whether educationally, economically or otherwise -- have every incentive to think of themselves as victims of those who are more successful.

Those who want their votes have every incentive to go along, or even to actively promote that idea. So do those who want to see issues as moral melodramas, starring themselves on the side of the angels against the forces of evil. The net result is an invincible dogma -- and a polarized country.

Thomas Sowell

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

Creators Syndicate