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reflections in a cup: PC Gone Wild

PC Gone Wild


April 1, 2008
By Stuart Daw

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In an age dominated by political correctness and multiculturalism, it’s
easy to forget that only a few years ago things were not quite that way.

In an age dominated by political correctness and multiculturalism, it’s easy to forget that only a few years ago things were not quite that way.

My recollection of when PC started really taking hold puts it at around 30 years ago. Organic was a word seldom, if ever, heard. Bird-friendly and Fair Trade were not yet born, and people were less concerned about saying something innocent that might get you into big trouble today.

I recall one incident when it was clear the winds of change were blowing. It was some time ago. We were becoming vaguely aware of the new, but growing, requirement for delicacy in the wording of ads in the hiring process. Our ad, the standard one that the branch manager wished to place in the New Orleans Times-Picayune, began: Sharp, attractive woman/man to demo new blend of coffee to businesses in New Orleans area.

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The voice on the telephone to my office from New Orleans said, “I know what you’re doing. You’re trying to hire a woman, aren’t you?

“No,” I replied, and, trying to disarm her with a little humour, I said, “As a matter of fact, I’m trying to hire a gorilla. Is that okay?”

Woman: Don’t kid me. I know what you’re up to. You want to hire a woman, and you can’t deny it.

Me: How can you tell?

Woman: You want to use the word “attractive,” and that has a female connotation.

Me: Are you saying a man cannot be attractive?

Woman: Right. We can’t let you use that word.

Recognizing that I was in some trouble with this classified advertising person, I decided to make a clean breast of it. I told her that in the context of the requirements of the job we were seeking to fill, a woman was indeed what we wanted.

Facts of Life
I explained that, based on empirical evidence, women on average achieved better results than men when it came to selling to business offices. On the other hand, I went on, our experience told us that men were somewhat more successful than women when it came to selling to restaurants. Thus, we wanted a woman for this particular office coffee application. When we were ready to advertise for a restaurant and institutional sales person, we would look for a man.

Whereupon the voice on the other end of the line launched into a sermon on equal rights, and why it was immoral to try to hire a particular kind of worker based on sex.

When I asked her whether, in spite of knowing what was right for our company, we should go ahead and hire someone who was not best suited, she in effect said that this was precisely what we should do, as a sort of obligation to society, to egalitarianism, to the common good, and so on.

We wrangled awhile over what word would be admissible in the ad, and she finally agreed to replace “attractive” with “good-looking.”

Me: Just to clarify my understanding: in other words, a woman can be “attractive” while a man cannot, but they both can be “good-looking.”

Woman: (with the air of a teacher who had just scored a point with a dull student) Right!

Now, what this person was ignoring was the tremendous amount of discomfort caused by such an absurd idea, for this was not just playing with the semantics of wording an ad. And, of course, it was not her fault. It had to do with the bad consequences of this kind of government-mandated social engineering.

Look at what actually happens in such a case. First, we were going to hire a woman whether the newspaper clerk wanted us to or not. Our branch manager, stuck with an ad that could bring in equal numbers of men and women, would have to go through the motions of interviewing everyone, and rejecting the men.

This would be a waste of his time. Worse, more time would be wasted by male applicants who would never know that they didn’t have a chance for the job. They would typically waste not just time, but money for gas they perhaps could not afford just to get to the interview, to say nothing of the wear and tear on an old clunker of a car that many such applicants drove.

Getting Worse
In the years since that incident, the laws have become much more stringent. No fair person would quarrel with wage parity between two people doing the same work, regardless of any other criterion such as age, sex, race, etc. All that matters to an administrator of a business is the concept of value for value, exchanging money for work done: same work, same pay. That decision should be that administrator’s to make, not that of the government.

But now we see a clamoring for equal pay regardless of the value of the work performed, destroying the very idea of running an efficient company. And the same modern liberals who generated these laws now bemoan the fact that we are not competitive with foreign producers.

Why do businesspeople put up with this? Why shouldn’t they, as a matter of principle, be able to hire “the best person for the job?” Why can’t there be voluntary wage bargains between workers and management without any outside interference or other extraneous criteria? Such manager-worker agreements have traditionally established the value of an employee’s work. But, we are told, this kind of objective justice in the matter of labour is “unfair.”

In hiring who we want, at wages mutually agreed to, we would be following our company’s best interests. And following our best interests is exactly what we have to do to remain competitive.

What’s wrong with that?
What’s wrong is that we in business have been morally disarmed. We go along with these absurd laws, not through a sense of justice, but through a sense of guilt, feeling that to be “selfishly” following our best interests is wrong, that we must sacrifice for some kind of good we can’t even identify, that we have no inherent rights as human beings.

“Somebody up here in government must have the right to tell us what to do,” goes the rationale.

Businesspeople – the victims – with their silence thus sanction the government’s often-irrational invasion of their rights. As such they are their own worst enemies, for without that sanction governments would never dare to do the things they do.

The answer? It is the philosophic recognition that we as individuals, and collectively as companies, have a right to our own lives, a right to function, a right to produce values and to trade those values by mutual agreement with others for mutual benefit. This is true whether we are talking about products, services, or wages. And governments are not needed in the process at all.o


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