Affirmative action (n)


Arguments Against Preferential Treatment



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Arguments Against Preferential Treatment
Opponents of preferential treatment programs argue that when distributing social benefits such as jobs or educational opportunities, recipients should be treated as equals unless there are morally relevant reasons for treating them different. In deciding who should be hired for a job or admitted to a college or university, the relevant criteria are an individual's qualifications and skills, not race or sex. To award or deny benefits on the basis of race or sex is as unjust as traditional discriminatory practices. Moreover, preferential treatment programs unjustly ignore the claim of need, denying benefits to disadvantaged white males while lavishing benefits on minorities who aren't in need of them.

Those who oppose preferential treatment programs also claim that if the purpose of the programs is to compensate for past discrimination or present disadvantages, then only persons who have been discriminated against should be given preference. Current preferential treatment programs, however, favor members of selected groups regardless of whether an individual member has ever suffered discrimination. In fact, most of the victims of past discrimination are no longer living, so the issue of just compensation is moot.

Critics of preferential policies further argue that society's burdens ought to be distributed fairly among its members. Preferential treatment programs are unfair because they impose the burden of compensation on white males who seek jobs or higher education. These individuals are no more responsible for past injustices or for rectifying present inequalities than any other individuals. It is unfair that they should bear the full burden of compensation.

Programs awarding preference according to race or sex are also opposed on the grounds that they cause much more harm than good. First, with these programs in force, those who may be more qualified are overlooked while others only minimally qualified are chosen. The inevitable result is reduced productivity and efficiency in the work place and the lowering of academic standards in colleges and universities.




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