NBEconomics: Draft Whitey! Affirmative Action Failure in the NCAA and Ivy League.

The NBA is 80.9% “people of color” and 19.1% “white” , which, is almost the exact opposite of the United States demographics where 79.96% of the population is “white”. “In the NCAA In Division I men’s basketball, African-Americans accounted for 57.2 percent of the student-athletes and whites accounted for 29.4 percent.”

Sally Kohn seems to think overreprsentation is proof of unjust discrimination. What would happen if the NCAA forced schools to get more white players? Say NCAA recruiters gave high school “white” kids a bump in ratings because the rating system seems to benefit “black” players and the NCAA gave scholarships for being “white”. Let’s just say they succeeded, more “white” players received scholarships due to adjusted ratings and “white scholarships”.

What would happen on the court? Would “white” players get more playing time than before?

Would “white” players make the NBA?

If so, for how long?

If the previous rating system was accurate, raising player ratings based on anything other than ability means putting lower ability players in a league with accurately rated, high-level players. Maybe the higher-level players would take it easy on the inferior “white” players.

Remember the Behaviour Framing Grid and if a person is motivated (social norm+ individual incentive), able and has opportunity that person is likely to act.  If a player is better, the player is able to win. If the player is in the game, the opportunity is obvious. If the player wants to win, clearly the player is motivated. The score board does not care about the aesthetics, thus there is no incentive for the player to care either.

Maybe the player would be looked down on by breaking social norms, but would the negative social consequences of dunking on low rated players be greater than the individual incentive of winning and positive social consequences of winning? Would negative social consequences of beating “white” players be worse than the negative consequences of losing to someone everyone knows doesn’t deserve to be there?

It is a safe bet on average, “white” affirmative action players would get crushed in Division I. Putting “white” players on the court because they’re “white” and not necessarily good, is a receipe for disaster. No doubt, there would be some “white” players that preformed well, they would be a extrodinarily small percentage. At the NBA level, that minority of “white” affirmative action players would be even less likely to succeed. In fact, I would wager that the best players would have a greater advantage than before “white” benefits implementation  because their competition would be weaker. The better players would stand out more, making it less likely “white” affirmative action players would be drafted at all.

There is an easy answer for how Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947, the NBA’s was shattered in 1950, the NFL in 1946 before the civil rights acts of the 1960’s. The coach at a small school has ability, opportunity, and motivation to put black players on his Texas Western team. He has no reason not to, after all, he’s already suffering from the negative consequences of losing. The score board does not care about “race”. Politicains and do-gooders do.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-East Regional-North Carolina vs Notre Dame
Mar 27, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels head coach Roy Williams celebrates with his team defeating the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the championship game in the East regional of the NCAA Tournament at Wells Fargo Center. North Carolina won 88-74. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Malcom Gladwell via Business Insider


If you read the title you know where this is going. I’ve read a lot from Malcolm Gladwell. He rarely dips his toe clearly in politics, but he could not help himself in the 4th chapter of David and Goliath.

Gladwell argues that the students may be much better off selecting a second-choice school instead of attending the Ivy League due to the level of competition and pressure to perform. Gladwell interviews Ivy League drop-outs who believe that they would have stayed in their field of study and graduated if they went to a less-competitive university.

They became “canon fonder” for the kids that went to private school their entire lives, just like the “white” affirmative action players would get crushed by players that grew up in AAU, intense basketball culture.

Gladwell makes the same argument against affirmative action, getting in doesn’t mean success. He contends that lowering admission standards for people because they are a minority puts them “in a school one higher tier than they would otherwise be able to attend.” Gladwell cites a study by Richard Sanders, which found “more than half of all African-American law students in the United States (51.6%) are in the bottom 10% of their class and almost three-quarters fall in the bottom 20%.”

Gladwell concluded, “We take promising students… who happen to be black and offer to bump them up a notch. And why do we do that? Because we think we’re helping them! Sure enough, by every conceivable measure (likelihood of graduating from law school, likelihood of passing the Bar Exam, likelihood of actually practicing law) black students who chose the big pond offered by affirmative action do markedly worse than those of equal academic credentials who attended their natural school.”

Affirmative Action is another program that means well, but ultimately gets in the way.



The Smokey the Bear Effect: What Forests, Housing, and Healthcare have in common.

According to Thomas Swetnam at the University of Arizona, every time there is a forest fire, it leaves a scar in the rings of surviving trees. Across thousands of tress these fire scars appeared every 5-10 years from the 1600s until about 1900. What changed?

The US Forest Service was formed in 1905 to stop all forest fires. They did a great job stopping small fires that burnt up scrubs, small trees and only damaged large trees. Since these small fires never started there was more fuel for bigger fires. According to Stephen Pyne via NPR, “Over the past several years, even as fewer fires have struck the Southwest, they’ve burned more land. The U.S. Forest Service now spends about half its budget on firefighting.”

The Forest Service sought to end all forest fires, but they ended up creating bigger, more damaging fires. Trees that would have survived the smaller fires and returned to regular growing burned in the larger, hotter fires fueled by the Forest Service’s policy. It’s called “The Smokey the Bear Effect.”

If you believe in evolution, the forests had become so large through the process of natural selection. Those forests existed because they were stable, despite the small fires. In fact, the small fires were part of the reason the forests had grown so large. There was a natural equilibrium between the forests and fires that allowed the forest to become it’s size. When the US Forest service stepped in, the balance changed, but natural selection still applied. A new equilibrium had to be reached.

Capitalism is a the natural selection of businesses. Businesses constantly compete with each other in the environment of the marketplace to provide customers with a product for the most value while still making a profit for the business. Afterall, the business that doesn’t cover expenses, dies. Even non-profits have to cover their expenses.

An equalibrium in which the business makes more than it spends must be reached to survive. Businesses that can survive, do; the ones that can’t, don’t.

Home loans were of the safest bets for investment. Banks had reached an equilibrium: they did not loan to people who were credit risks or could not afford the payments which allowed them to profit. Then, in their desire for everyone to own a home, the government stepped in and forced banks to provide “affordable housing” loans, which, lowered the standards to get a home loan. Banks gave loans to people who would not merit a loan in the past; those people didn’t pay on the loan, banks took huge losses and the market collapsed.

Not only did those people the government sought to get homes lose their homes, other home owners lost value on their homes when foreclosed homes flooded the market, raised supply of homes, thus lowered home prices. Retirement accounts that relied on the banks and mutual funds took a hit as well.

It’s another form of the Smokey the Bear Effect. Government got involved then made the problem they tried to solve even worse by tampering with the natural equilibrium.

Barack Obama wanted everyone to be have health insurance. Just like the banks and home loans, health insurance companies did not cover people who were high risks because insurers would spend more than they made if they did so. Then government stepped in with the PPACA(Obamacare) forcing insurers to cover everyone including high-risk clients and 100% financial liability pre-existing conditions. The results again: 4.7 million lost coverage because their plans did not meet the new PPACA standards, “one-third of counties are projected to have just one insurer on their Obamacare exchanges this year”, premiums cost 99% more than before the PPACA.

In my exchange with Consumer’s Union on Twitter, once I questioned them directly on premiums they decided not to respond.

Why does government interference lead to the compounding of the problems they seek to solve in healthcare, affirmative action, and housing? See Milton Friedman, Adam Smith, and Thomas Sowell. The free market allows the real experts to do their jobs, and competition between businesses creates the highest value product. Just like natural selection, in free-market capitalism the best businesses survive and thrive. Their policies and practices are not arbitrary; they exist to allow the business to survive. If those policies are changed, the business will die. If the business inflates their prices, their competitors will make a equal quality product at a lower price and drive the former out of business. The constant competition keeps even the largest companies from taking advantage of consumers.

When government steps in to save bad businesses, like George W. Bush did to save the banks or Barack Obama to save the auto industry, businesses have no incentive to change their policies that caused failure. After all, they’ll just get bailed out when they fail, with each failure successfully growing, hurting more people.

If government got out of the market, bad businesses would fail, allowing the rest of the market prosper; just like small fires would burn vulnerable trees allowing the rest of forest to grow.

Government can’t prevent forest fires or market bubbles. It can only make them bigger.


The Locust Effect: The Ultimate Argument for the Most Basic Function of Government, Rule of Law, and American Privilege.

In keeping with the promise of this blog, it only makes sense to start with Gary Haugen’s and Victor Boutros’ book The Locust Effect: Why the End of Poverty Requires the End of Violence. It is brutal, heartbreaking, and absolutely demoralizing. It is true.

The Locust Effect is named for 1875 swam of locusts devoured crops, destroying the savings, work and hope of poor US farmers to make it out of poverty. Huegen and Boutros concede that there are many factors that lead to poverty, but any attempt alleviating those other factors without first providing credible law enforcement will fail. Fortunately, that swam died out shortly after, the developing world is not so lucky. The book opens with Huegen in Rwanda counting piles of human corpses in a church.

“I didn’t even realize as I was loading into a van outside the airport that I had entered Rwanda without passing through customs and immigration because there was no customs or immigration.” – The Locust Effect Chapter 1, p 1.

The bodies that Huegen counts are from the Rwandan genocide of 1994. It was only 1 on the list of 100 mass graves Huegen was given as part of the United Nations Special Investigations Unit. The thought occurs to him, the people whose corpses Huegen counts in that church did not need food, water, money, cell phones, free college tuition, nor affordable health insurance while men made their way through the crowd by machete. The kind of healthcare they needed was someone to stop the machete, basic protection from violence.

Rwanda is not the most heart breaking story in The Locust Effect. Huegen and Boutros impart stories of the rape and murder of 10-year-old girls, debt slavery, and sex trafficking in which no one is convicted, charged, or even investigated. All due to justice systems left over from colonization designed to protect the monarch and/or completely corrupt systems in which the police get paid more money from sex traffickers than people the police are supposed to protect.

Imagine going to court in the United States, and the only language used in court was Mandarin Chinese or the police being involved meant criminals will always get away. Are you making sarcastic jokes about the US justice system? Allow another example from chapter 6.

A lawyer in Southeast Asia describes getting stonewalled at the local police station despite having photos of three teenage girls being raped by operators of a bar, photos of the bar, it’s operators, and a map with a diagram of the rooms where the girls are being held. The police agree to raid the bar… in a few days. When the police go the bar with the lawyer, the bar is closed and empty. The bar was one of five owned by a man who paid the police to protect this sex trafficking operation.

Huegen and Boutros do not make the claim the US criminal justice system is perfect, in fact, they make a point to state it isn’t several times. They also acknowledge; however, the US system is far better than those of the developing world. Is there a station anywhere in the US that would act like the one in Southeast Asia?

More from the book:

  • In 2013 there were est. 27 million slaves, more than all that were extracted from Africa in the 400 years of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade (11 million). India had the most slaves of any country.
  • In the developing world 1 in 3 (1 billion) live in a slum.
  • In the 1980s, 50% of the world population was living in extreme poverty ($1.50/day). In 2013, it was 15%
  • A smaller proportion of the world’s population is in slavery and a smaller proportion of the world’s economy is generated by slavery.
  • The average length of pre-trail detention in Nigeria is 3.7 years. In the developing world, it is not uncommon for people to spend more time in prison waiting for trial than if they had plead guilty and served their sentence.

All of this lends to the title of this piece.

The US government, for all its faults, has provided the foundation for the most prosperous nation ever. Government’s most basic function is to protect the people from people. Without rule of law the government is vulnerable to corruption based on the whims of lawmakers. American Exceptionalism (or privilege) is found in the checks and balances along with the rights guaranteed in the Constitution and Bill of Rights that grant the people the ability to fight corruption in their own government. The rule of law and divided powers create a form of government that is difficult to completely corrupt and overtime has become less corrupt. As impossible as that is to believe given the current political climate, a look back at the police corruption in New York in the early 2oth century, Jim Crow South, and US slavery proves that. Jessica Disu’s idea that the police should be abolished is non-sense. US cities need more police and less corruption.

Furthermore, the monopolization of force by government advocated by Huegen, Boutros, and Hobbes (Leviathan) is checked by due process, free speech and a favorite of el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz (Malcom X) the 2nd amendment.

The prosperity of the United States is due to the democratic republic system. It is no coincidence that poverty and slavery are highly correlated in the developing world. As Milton Freidman asserted, the US may have been built in part by slavery, however, it only flourished after slavery ended. Slavery keeps nations poor because it reduces the size of the talent pool and incentive for innovation. The same can be said of any system that prevents people from participating in the market based on solely on merit; be it racism, sexism, or socialism.

The fact that no amount of charity will save people in the developing world from violence inspired Gary Huegen to start the International Justice Mission(IJM). Huegen’s Christian organization works to bring criminals to justice in the developing world, provide legal and social work services for victims of violence. It isn’t sexy helping, shooting an ad for PETA or flying to a climate change summit in a private jet. It is a dirty, dangerous labor of love that will not make the evening news.

Last year the bodies Willie Kimani of IJM, Josephat Mwenda (Kimani’s client), and taxi driver Joseph Muirfield were found in a river in Kenya. Eight days before their bodies were found, Kimani and Mwenda were leaving a trial on police brutality when they got in Muirfield’s taxi and were kidnapped.

As some of the statics in The Locust Effect via the World Bank’s Voices of the Poor point out, slavery is on the decline, poverty is as well. That is not a reason to let up, but to keep going. To find more about my favorite charity, visit IJM.


Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑