Thought for the day

Barton Swaim dissects Fredrik deBoer’s How Elites Ate the Social Justice Movement in the Wall Street Journal’s Review section today. It’s a superb review that ends with five paragraphs on Thomas Sowell’s Social Justice Fallacies:

The no-nonsense title of “Social Justice Fallacies” captures the book exactly: There is no introduction, no attempt by the author to lure the reader into the subject; just five essays on the dire unintended consequences of trying to make the world “equitable” by handing out benefits and punishments according to racial and sexual identities.

Today’s progressives, Mr. Sowell points out, are mirror images of their early-20th-century forerunners. The earlier progressives embraced genetic determinism and believed people other than Anglo-American whites to be genetically inferior; today’s progressives, by nearly exact contrast, believe, similarly against all evidence, that any variance in success among individuals of different races must be the result of conscious or unconscious racism.

Among the innumerable follies occasioned by such a conception of racial identity, he suggests, was the housing bubble and market collapse of 2008. The debacle began, Mr. Sowell reminds us, with the widespread belief on the part of regulators that banks were discriminating against black mortgage applicants. It was true that black applicants were turned down more often than white applicants for the same loans, but it was also true that white applicants were turned down more often than Asian-Americans. So were banks discriminating against white applicants? No, the difference had to do with the average credit ratings of whites, blacks and Asians.

Those facts didn’t matter to a conglomerate of uncomprehending journalists, indignant academics and outraged politicos. The government responded by pressuring lenders to lower their lending standards, which in turn saddled banks with a lot of loans that weren’t likely to be paid off.

“No one who paid attention to the facts of that situation,” writes Mr. deBoer of the 2008 crash, “could fail to understand that it was rich bankers who had tanked the economy and forced millions of Americans into financial ruin.” Mr. Sowell doesn’t say the holders of that commonplace view are stupid; only that they are “impervious to evidence or conclusions contrary to their own beliefs.”

Having lived through the housing bubble inside the legal department of TCF Financial Corporation through December 2009, I call that a bingo.

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