Affirmative Action for the Ugly

Once again, The Onion is eclipsed by the New York Times. Daniel S. Hamermesh questions whether certain EEO actions might be reasonable based on ugliness.
...why not offer legal protections to the ugly, as we do with racial, ethnic and religious minorities, women and handicapped individuals?

We could even have affirmative-action programs for the ugly.

For purposes of administering a law, we surely could agree on who is truly ugly, perhaps the worst-looking 1 or 2 percent of the population.
This is a powerful example of the conflict of visions that exists between conservatives and liberals. One side seeks to impose equivalence via government coercion and lawsuits and the other does not. One side says the government should be the arbiter of morality while the other does not. One thinks in terms of groups while the other does not.

An important issue was noted near the end of the article. Often, the left does not acknowledge that incentives matter. In the case of taxation, they often dismiss the chilling effect that higher tax rates can have on investment and economic growth. They often poo-poo the idea that the wealthy may decide to change their behaviors if tax rates are to high. But in his article about ugly people, Hamermesh notes that incentives certainly do matter:
There are other possible objections. “Ugliness” is not a personal trait that many people choose to embrace; those whom we classify as protected might not be willing to admit that they are ugly. But with the chance of obtaining extra pay and promotions amounting to $230,000 in lost lifetime earnings, there’s a large enough incentive to do so.
Hamermesh feels that the ugly among us will embrace their ugliness if lured out with the prospect of financial remuneration. If true, those on the left should certainly concede that confiscatory tax rates, 90 weeks of guaranteed income in form of unemployment insurance and paying no taxes at all (as about 50% of Americans do) may in some way affect the decisions that people make.

For those who still possess some modicum of shame, they would likely not be able to expose themselves to the crushing humiliation of asking for a handout because of their uncomeliness. Their self-esteem is likely fragile as it is and having to be judged by some pulchritude panel may be more than they can bear. But those without shame would be lining up with their hands fully extended to exploit this program of good intent. I suppose those with face tattoos, meth mouth and other self-imposed disfigurements could benefit from this as well.

But Hamermesh places a low percentage on who would be eligible - one or two percent. So the competition would be steep for those racing to the bottom of the beauty pool. And given the track record of other public programs, we can all sleep well knowing this number would likely not grow and costs would be contained. For those of you enamored with large government programs, that was a joke.

As many ideas and programs of this nature, it stages - whether intentionally or not - a race to the bottom. It does not elevate people. It creates a culture where we are told to gather based on our shared grievances.

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