By Andrew Brons. Nick Clegg has informed us that there are more black men in prison than there are at the Russell Group of top universities and we are astounded at his prowess as a logician.
Mr. Clegg’s invitation and the hushed atmosphere in which his words were listened to had less to do with his faculty for deductive inference, his flair for inductive generalisation or even his statistical literacy and more to do with the fact that he would use the words ‘black’ and ‘discrimination’ in the same sentence.
That, more than adherence to logical procedures, would be a guarantee that his intellect would be recognised and revered.
What Clegg was saying was that a disproportionately large number of black men were in prison and a disproportionately small number of males from the same ethnic group were to be found in the top universities.
He was implying that these facts could be attributed to ‘discrimination’. In fact, there are three possible explanations:
1. That the educational and criminal justice systems are discriminating against black men; or
2. That black men are disproportionately likely to commit offences that lead to imprisonment and that they are disproportionately unlikely to be eligible to be admitted to the top universities; or perhaps
3. A combination of the two.
A logical approach would be for those, with relevant expertise and access to information, to examine each hypothesis on the basis of empirical evidence and not to leap to a prejudiced conclusion.
Mr. Clegg spoke, with approval, of the positive discrimination that has been operating in favour of ethnic minorities in the public sector.
This had resulted in ethnic minorities in the public sector earning more than public sector workers from the indigenous population. Mr. Clegg clearly saw this as something to celebrate.
However, he was less happy with the fact that ethnic minorities in the private sector earn less than British employees.
It appears that whilst workers in the private sector are paid their market rate, ethnic minority workers in the public sector are paid more than their market rate and white workers in the public sector are paid less than their market rate.
Market rates might or might not recognise ‘worth’ – a subjective concept – but they do at least reflect demand for and supply of (in this case) labour.
It appears that discrimination can be presumed when ethnic minorities receive a less than proportionate share of the good things in life and or a more than proportionate share of the bad things in life.
Such discrimination, whether or not it exists in reality, is self-evidently a bad thing.
However, when discrimination is not simply presumed but is deliberate policy that tries and succeeds in treating ethnic minorities more favourably, it is to be applauded.
Mr. Clegg’s lecture tells us little about crime, educational opportunity or fairness in the workplace. However, it tells us everything that we need to know about Mr. Clegg.