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Welcome to STop, the Seattle Times Opinion blog where our editorial writers and editors share their evolving thoughts on a variety of issues. STop is a place where opinion writers and readers can exchange views and readers can learn more about how editorial positions are formed.

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December 21, 2005

The Common Good

A reader responds to "Anti-Discrimination, 2":

Your post implies that individual freedom is the highest virtue that can be promoted; all else is subservient. A person may be against discrimination, but freedom is the higher value, so discrimination should be allowed. While I think individual freedom is something that should be valued near the top of the list of virtues (and in most cases should be highest valued), there are many cases of where freedom should not be...

Some aspects of anti-discrimination fall under this. A business that discriminates by not hiring women eventually does worse because people shop there less (if they know about the policy) and it limits the pool of smart employees from which it draws. Theoretically it would be self-correcting over the long term. That's the micro-economic argument put forward in my economics course at least. However, in reality there's a lot of parity in the quality of the employee pool and businesses can hide their policies pretty effectively. It could take centuries to correct society-wide inequality. My personal opinion is that our gain from reducing inequality is greater than our loss of freedom in this case.

I don't think that anti-discrimination always trumps individual freedom. That means I don't have a nice, clean, pure philosophy like that of libertarianism. It's easier to measure something against the libertarian "freedom" yardstick than it is against the measure of "greatest good" because you get a lot more opinions on what constitutes good. But I think it's an eminently reasonable philosophy, even if it leaves intellectual room for a nanny-state that I don't like.

Philip Weiss, Bellevue

Respond here.

 
Posted by Bruce Ramsey at December 21, 2005 01:40 PM



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