Power & Market

How Phony “Civil Rights” Put Your Life in Danger


A recent story revealed that one-third to one-half of the students at the prestigious UCLA School of Medicine are unqualified. These students belong to racial and ethnic minorities; most are blacks and Latinos. One student couldn’t identify a major artery when questioned by a surgeon during an operation.

Would you want a “doctor” like that to treat you? Isn’t the purpose of a medical school to train competent physicians? Why, then, were these unqualified people admitted? The answer is that the medical school was following the DEI guidelines. “DEI” stands for “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” and supports preferences for racial minorities. The school wants certain kinds of “diversity” and not others. It certainly isn’t looking for students who oppose racial set-asides, even though they would be “diverse” from the lockstep leftwing majority that dominates academic life.

What can we do about this? The person who first posted about the situation on X, aka Twitter, thinks people should sue the school. Affirmative action is illegal in California, but preferential admissions are clearly “affirmative action,” whatever the school chooses to call them. He thinks that DEI standards, correctly applied, lead to true “equality of opportunity.”

As the great legal scholar Dr. Wanjiru Njoya has pointed out, this “solution” is worse than useless. Universities have a lot of experience in defending against claims that their admissions programs are unfair, so it’s unlikely the people who sue would prevail. More fundamentally, the lawsuits don’t get to the heart of the problem.

The real issue concerns the so-called “civil rights” laws, especially the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This bans discrimination against people on grounds of race, sex, or religion. Under this legislation, no wonder medical schools admit unqualified minorities. If they didn’t, there would be a good case against them that they are violating a federal law.

The only true solution is to get rid of all “civil rights” laws. As the great Murray Rothbard has explained, in a libertarian society all exchanges with people are voluntary. People do not have the “right” to be free from discrimination. Medical schools in a free society could admit whomever they wanted, but schools that admitted unqualified candidates wouldn’t get money from donors. Who would want to go to such a school? In what follows, I’m going to look at these points in more detail.

According to a story in the Washington Free Beacon, the UCLA Medical School admits incompetent students: ”Race-based admissions have turned UCLA into a “failed medical school,” said one former member of the admissions staff. “We want racial diversity so badly, we’re willing to cut corners to get it. . . . “I have students on their rotation who don’t know anything,” a member of the admissions committee told the Free Beacon. “People get in and they struggle.”

When a student was asked by his professor to identify a major artery, the student berated him. This was harassment and “micro-aggression”. Why was he being asked about something anybody could easily look up? But of course the student was just making himself look bad. He didn’t know the answer, and in an operating room, you can’t take timeout to look something up—if you can read at all. Again, we ask; would you want this person to be your doctor?

Aaron Sibariurm, who fist posted about this story on Twitter, thinks that this is an abuse of the DEI guidelines. He thinks that we can ban “affirmative action” and make do with a reformed DEI. We can admit competent blacks and Latinos because we want “diversity” without admitting any really bad apples.

You might think this was a problem confined to California. If UCLA Medical School is bad, is that really a major problem? After all, it’s just one school. But the DEI ideology is everywhere. You can be sure all the other major medical schools are doing exactly the same thing.

But is Sibarium’s solution enough? Would you want a doctor who wasn’t clearly incompetent or would you want a doctor who was the best the school had available? The question answers itself. Some people might object, “But what if only a handful of blacks or Latinos gained admission, if the same standards applied to everybody?” The answer is clear: so what? Medical schools aren’t social readjustment programs. Also, if members of the so-called “protected” groups knew that they had to meet the same standards as everybody else, they would study harder rather than coast in on their race, as they now can do. Even more important, people who didn’t have the qualifications to get into medical school would be likely to choose to pursue other careers in which their chances of success would be better. As Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams have said, isn’t it better to be a great teacher than  a failed “doctor” who winds up on welfare?

The real problem with the whole DEI business won’t be cured by trying to have a “better” law. Murray Rothbard identified the real problem when he wrote about employment law. Exactly what he said about it applies to medical school admissions too. In a free society, people can make any voluntary transactions they want. There is no right not to be discriminated against. Murray put this in his inimitable fashion: “The start of the evil can be pinpointed precisely: the monstrous Civil Rights Act of 1964, specifically Title VII, prohibited discrimination in employment on the basis of race, religion, sex, and other possible characteristics. This horrendous invasion of the property rights of the employer is the source of all the rest of the ills, neocons and sellout Libertarians to the contrary notwithstanding. If I am an employer and, for whatever reason, I wish to hire only five-foot-four albinos. I should have the absolute right to do so. Period.”

Murray was alive to the danger of “micro-aggressions” too, before people started calling them that. He again displayed his mordant wit: “The concept of s.h. [sexual harassment] has now swollen to such lengths that the following actions ‘in the workplace’ are now illegal and criminal: statements such as ‘I wish my wife were as pretty as you,’ terms of affection such as ‘toots,’ ‘honey;’ ‘dear’; use of a ‘demeaning’ term such as ‘girl’; . . .and-my personal favorite-inappropriate ‘non-verbal gestures,’ such as ‘outlining a person’s body parts with one’s hands or looking someone up and down with elevator eyes.’ Can you imagine what is going to happen as these outrageous concepts of crime are enforced? Can you magine the vast Gestapo necessary to hunt down and arrest men for inappropriate eyeing up and down, for saying, .’hello, honey;’ etc.? Since most women now enter the workplace, the idea of outlawing flirting is not only totalitarian; it is also absurd.”

The distinguished legal scholar Richard A. Epstein has some important things to say about the notion of a right against discrimination. In his outstanding book Forbidden Grounds (Harvard, 1992), he points out that when groups have different preferences, they have the right to associate with those who share these preferences. He remarks: “Some will say, ‘I don’t wish to live in a society in which other people practice exclusion on grounds of race or sex.’ But when that claim [to live in a society they prefer] is made by those who are opposed to the current pattern of state-supported discrimination, they are told that the justifications for the existing practices outweigh any private regret they might feel. It is never explained why one set of needs may be fully satisfied while the other must go completely unanswered. It is very easy to develop rules that give us exactly what we want if the only preferences and desires that are taken into account are those with whom we agree on moral or political grounds. The problem of social governance, however, requires that we make peace not with our friends but with our enemies, and that can be done only if we show some respect for their preferences even when we detest them. Using the principle of exclusion allows both groups to go their separate ways side by side. The anti-discrimination laws force them into constant undesired interaction. The totalitarian implications become clear only when one realizes the excessive steps that must be taken to enforce the anti-discrimination principle in favor of some groups while it is overtly ignored relative to other groups.” (p.497)

As I pointed out in 1995, the only way to end the terror of quotas, and to establish a free market in talent, is to repeal the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The government needs to be stripped of its power to determine if anyone is discriminating or giving preferences (or even determining on what constitutes either). The government of a free society cannot have the power to declare holding subjective intentions, whether good or bad, to be illegal.

If a college or university wants a racial quota, fine. Another can have an exclusivist admission policy. The same goes for business: the government should never again tell anyone they have too many or not enough of this or that group. We also need to give up the notion of a “color-blind society”—a goal as absurdly utopian as socialism itself—and settle for real fairness: a neutral legal environment of contract enforcement.

Imagine a world without anti-discrimination law. Every employee would be planned and wanted. Business would be free to advertise for job openings without fearing lawsuits. There would be no more quota loans from banks. The credit rating would mean something again. The university could get back to being a place of learning instead of a victimological remediation center.

Don’t count on Washington to end affirmative action any time soon. Neither party intends the overhaul of civil rights. The quota culture is so huge—in academia, business, and in the official philosophy governing public policy in this country—that it requires political root canal.

Let’s do everything we can to save our lives by training the best doctors, not by pandering to woke tyranny. We can do this only by repealing the monstrous 1964 Civil Rights Act.

Originally published at LewRockwell.com.

Note: The views expressed on Mises.org are not necessarily those of the Mises Institute.
What is the Mises Institute?

The Mises Institute is a non-profit organization that exists to promote teaching and research in the Austrian School of economics, individual freedom, honest history, and international peace, in the tradition of Ludwig von Mises and Murray N. Rothbard. 

Non-political, non-partisan, and non-PC, we advocate a radical shift in the intellectual climate, away from statism and toward a private property order. We believe that our foundational ideas are of permanent value, and oppose all efforts at compromise, sellout, and amalgamation of these ideas with fashionable political, cultural, and social doctrines inimical to their spirit.

Become a Member
Mises Institute