Bad Logic Makes Me Cry
February 9, 2015

Consider an article from today's Detroit News: Michigan can't condone discrimination by Cynthia J. Pasky, The Detroit News, Feb. 9, 2015, p. 11A. Pasky writes:

In business, a key factor in achieving success is putting together the best team possible and providing a supportive atmosphere in which team members can go to work and focus on their jobs. If we start putting up barriers that prohibit talented and qualified people from joining our team, based on factors that have nothing to do with their job-related abilities, we only hurt our own efforts.
O.K. Nice big breath... First, the paragraph is profoundly at odds with the article's title. If you want to assemble a great team, the one thing you must do constantly is: DISCRIMINATE. You have six candidates for HTML person. Which are actually good at it? You have 20 candidates for the one graphic designer spot. Seven of them seem to have genuine talent for design. Of them, which might know the technical aspects of Web page design well enough to have meaningful conversations with the HTML people? Can your manager candidates get along with the artsy (and quite possibly gay!!) design people and still be comfortable stopping by the office at 1 a.m. for coffee and Twinkies with the (homophobic, according to rumor) programming staff? Plus, if this is about putting together a team, how about people who play on both teams, like Cole Porter? This could be complicated!

How about Tony Curtis? He had a part in a movie called Spartacus. He was a slave. His owner, a Roman politician, was taking a bath and talking about how some people liked oysters and some people liked snails, but SOME people liked oysters AND snails, at which point the character ran away. How would that scene be done today? It isn't just oysters or snails or neither or both. Now we have oysters who think they are snails and snails who think they are oysters. And some people who have enjoyed snails all their lives are now beginning to feel what they really want are oysters who pretend to be snails.

Back in the 1980s there was a really nice restaurant in Downtown Detroit called The Money Tree. They obviously discriminated. All of their waiters seemed to be gay. I didn't care. The food was great. I can still remember the delicate, almost entrancing flavor of their Crème Brûlée Grand Marnier. Damn, that was good!

I'm getting at a very simple point: No business person will deliberately discriminate in a way that hurts the business. If your customers expect your waiters or your hairdressers to be gay or gay-friendly, then that is who you should hire. If you run a Christian or Muslim bookstore, you probably don't want some total swish at the cash register.

I'm not opposed to all forms of government coercion. I tend to support helmet laws and seat-belt laws. I applauded New York City's war on trans-fats and giant soft-drink cups. But if you wish to advocate some new form of government coercion, I need to hear a really good reason. Why should business people be forced by government to do something supposedly in their own interests anyway?

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