Half Past the Month: The Starbucks Position

April 13, 2018

(For the use of the membership only.)

“Equality of opportunity, not only is it fair enough, it’s even laudable. But equality of outcome? It’s like, ‘No, you’ve crossed the line. We’re not going there with you.’” — Dr. Jordan B. Peterson

THERE ARE TWO TYPES OF PEOPLE IN THE WORLD, the wags used to say, those who believe there are two types of people and those who don’t. If that applies to any issue, it applies to diversity.

A quintessential young urban professional recently moved back to our Indiana town from San Francisco. The first thing you do when you fly in from California, evidently, is write a guest column on what’s wrong with Indiana.

The new arrival recommends that at our very first opportunity — “the next meeting, strategy session, business outing or community engagement” — Hoosiers take a moment to evaluate their diversity, or, ahem, their lack of it.

“Then decide what you can do to invite more diverse voices to the table,” she graciously suggests. “Changing the status quo is hard work. It takes longer and is naturally more difficult than sticking with what you have. It requires a willingness to challenge your existing thinking, to be inclusive beyond your normal comfort and to honestly evaluate your blind spots.”

Good advice, but she goes on to say there are two categories of diversity. The first is Inherent diversity (things you are born with) and the second is acquired diversity (those gained from experience). Having both types she calls 2-D diversity. “Not surprisingly,” our San Francisco emigre reports, “employees of firms with 2-D diversity are 45 percent likelier to report a growth in market share over the previous year and 70 percent likelier to report that the firm captured a new market.”

You can call all of that the Starbucks position — Starbuckian, if you will.

We of a different opinion concede our blind spots and rather constricted comfort zones but we know that choosing, promoting or rewarding people even fractionally on the basis of factors independent of their productivity will not produce a more productive work force — or, dare one say, a more successful chain of coffee shops. Over time, inefficiencies will aggregate and make everyone less competitive and poorer — some desperately so.

Heather Mac Donald of City Magazine reports on this sorry fact from that model of San Francisco inclusiveness, the Haight-Ashbury district. Here, she says, is what you get when policy, be it public or private, abandons critical distinctions:

“The homelessness industry has pulled off some impressive feats of rebranding over the years — most notably, turning street vagrancy into a consequence of unaffordable housing, rather than of addiction and mental illness. But for sheer audacity, nothing tops the alchemy that homelessness advocates and their government sponsors are currently attempting in San Francisco. The sidewalks of the Haight-Ashbury district have been colonized by aggressive, migratory youths who travel up and down the West Coast panhandling for drug and booze money. Homelessness, Inc. is trying to portray these voluntary vagabonds as the latest victims of inadequate government housing programs, hoping to defeat an ordinance against sitting and lying on public sidewalks that the Haight community has generated.”

What the research could be actually saying, then, is that certain tortured configurations may provide temporary advantages associated with being thought of as a socially hip place to work or sip tea. Or perhaps it is those corporations already at the top of the ladder that can afford the luxury of such virtue signaling.

Sooner or later, though, pushing productive people aside for the less productive will result in a degradation in the reality that is economics. We wish it were easier but we have been up and down this dead end road for 50 years. Dr. Thomas Sowell explains:

“Intellectuals’ obsession with income statistics — calling envy ‘social justice’ — ignores vast differences in productivity that are far more fundamental to everyone’s well-being. Killing the goose that lays the golden egg has ruined many economies.”

So we are writing a letter to the San Francisco Examiner warning those on the West Coast who would relocate here that although they may miss their tent cities and righteous squalor they will find that Indiana prides itself  on its diversity. But that pride is in the second kind — the one that counts.

— Craig Ladwig



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