Bean-Counters and Baloney
by Thomas Sowell
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The bean-counters have struck again — this time in the sports pages. Two New York Times sport writers have discovered that baseball coaches from minority groups are found more often coaching at first base than at third base. Moreover, third-base coaches become managers more often than first-base coaches.
This may seem to be just another passing piece of silliness. But it is part of a more general bean-counting mentality that turns statistical differences into grievances. The time is long overdue to throw this race card out of the deck and start seeing it for the gross fallacy that it is.
At the heart of such statistics is the implicit assumption that different races, sexes and other subdivisions of the human species would be proportionately represented in institutions, occupations and income brackets if there was not something strange or sinister going on.
Although this notion has been repeated by all sorts of people, from local loudmouths on the street to the august chambers of the Supreme Court of the United States, there is not one speck of evidence behind it and a mountain of evidence against it.
Ask the bean-counters where in this wide world have different groups been proportionally represented. They can't tell you. In other words, something that nobody can demonstrate is taken as a norm, and any deviation from that norm is somebody's fault!
Anyone who has watched football over the years has probably seen at least a hundred black players score touchdowns — and not one black player kick the extra point. Is this because of some twisted racist who doesn't mind black players scoring touchdowns but hates to see them kicking the extra points?
At our leading engineering schools — M.I.T., CalTech, etc. — whites are under-represented and Asians over-represented. Is this anti-white racism or pro-Asian racism? Or are different groups just different?
As for baseball, I have long noticed that there are more blacks playing centerfield than third-base. Since the same people hire centerfielders and third-basemen, it is hard to argue that racism explains the difference.
No one says it is racism that explains why blacks are over-represented and whites under-represented in basketball. Bean-counters only make a fuss when there is a disparity that fits their vision or their agenda.
Years ago, a study was made of the ethnic make-up of military forces in countries around the world. Nowhere was the ethnic make-up of the military the same as the ethnic make-up of the population, or even close to the same.
Nearly half the pilots in the Malaysia's air force were from the Chinese minority, rather than the Malay majority. In Nigeria, most of the officers were from the southern tribes and most of the enlisted men were from the northern tribes. Similar disparities have been common among various groups in many places.
In countries around the world, all sorts of groups differ from each other in all sorts of ways, from rates of alcoholism to infant mortality, education and virtually everything that can be measured, as well as in some things that cannot be quantified. If black and white Americans were the same, they would be the only two groups on this planet who are the same.
One of the things that got us started on heavy-handed government regulation of the housing market were statistics showing that blacks were turned down for mortgage loans more often than whites. The bean-counters in the media went ballistic. It had to be racism, to hear them tell it.
What they didn't tell you was that whites were turned down more often than Asians. What they also didn't tell you was that black-owned banks also turned down blacks more often than whites. Nor did they tell you that credit scores differed from group to group. Instead, the media, the politicians and the regulators grabbed some statistics and ran with them.
The bean-counters are everywhere, pushing the idea that differences show injustices committed by society. As long as we keep buying it, they will keep selling it — and the polarization they create will sell this country down the river.
August 13, 2010
Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. His Web site is www.tsowell.com. To find out more about Thomas Sowell and read features by other Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate web page.
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