What a rich set of comments on an extremely controversial and difficult issue! I will not try to do justice to all of them, but I will make a few responses.
I argued that affirmative action is less costly to society than many other special interest programs. So I do not understand the criticism of me on this issue.
I agree that most of the diversity arguments about affirmative action are worth little. Diversity arguments were used in the past by Ivy League universities to keep down the number of Jews, and are now used to keep down the number of Asian Americans. A diligent student can learn from any good teacher, no matter his or her background. For example, Jewish students are better off with excellent non-Jewish teachers, sometimes even if they are anti-Jewish, than with mediocre Jewish ones. I believe the same conclusion applies to others.
I believe a major difficulty is in distinguishing affirmative action from anti-discrimination behavior. Otherwise, in the absence of legislation requiring quotas or something similar, I would allow competition to determine the employment and admission policies by firms and schools.
If the top 10% of each school were comparable, students from the lower quality schools would perform as well at universities as students at good schools. But they do not.
I agree that it would be valuable to have more data on performance both in and after schooling of students from various groups. But I am certain I am right that the bad performance of affirmative action students in law schools is not special to law schools. It is pervasive on all campuses in most departments and professional schools.
I agree with the references to Tom Sowell's excellent work on affirmative action around the world. He shows the many pernicious effects not only in the West but also in many other cultures. My argument about the harmful effects of using affirmative action to affect the quality of colleges attended by minority students of different abilities was one I first saw in an early article by Sowell.
I do agree that affirmative action can discourage working hard. Advancement should not be made too easy or too hard. If it is too easy, beneficiaries tend to loaf; if it is too hard, sometimes they give up- see Glenn Loury‚Äôs work on some of this.
I have no problem with looking harder for qualified applicants who might be overlooked, even if one can call this a very weak form of affirmative action. But surely it is radically different than advancing persons without sufficient qualifications.
I indicated that perhaps legacies were overused, but I gave a rationale why they could be consistent up to a point with improving the long run quality of a university. , I would not blame a university for using affirmative action if it received larger foundation or government grants when they used affirmative action toward say African-American students. I would, however, blame the foundation, private or public, for using this criterion. I should add that I also oppose affirmative action for students from rural areas, etc. Nothing I said on affirmative action should be construed as applying only to groups defined by race gender, ethnicity, etc.
I do not believe it is correct that Europe does not use affirmative action. For example, I believe Norway requires a minimal fraction of cabinet members to be women, and there are many other examples of affirmative action in Great Britain and other European nations.
I was not complacent about the disadvantages that many minority students suffer from. That is why I support head start programs and the like. But I do believe it is a mistake to confuse even expensive programs that try to bring various minority and other groups up to satisfactory levels with using lower standards to evaluate them.
I agree that in situations without market-clearing prices, as in some admission policies, there would be excess demand or supply that is an invitation to discrimination, segregation, and other bad things. That is one of the advantages of the price system that is seldom fully appreciated. For a discussion of some aspects of this issue with regard to schools and neighborhoods, see my book with Kevin Murphy, Social Economics.
Corey takes it on the chin a lot, and I disagree with much of what he says. But I am very happy that he is an active participant in the discussions. I like having my views challenged (as well as defended!). So Corey, keep being involved! The same goes for Palooka and others. Posner and I intentionally take controversial subjects where there is considerable disagreement, so we expect disagreement. I hope the discussion stays tough but remains for the most part well-mannered.