When it comes to discrimination there are many things people easily forget. Many people don’t realize discrimination is an integral part of their daily lives and affects nearly every decision they make, whether they like to admit it or not. When choosing who to associate with, we may discriminate against people with different interests than us, or people with lower moral standards than us, or people from a different religious or cultural background than us. In this context we discriminate not because we are inherently racist or prejudiced, but because we tend to seek common ground when choosing our friends. It can be very enriching to have a friend with different interests and hobbies but it is generally easier to relate to people who are more similar to us.
Likewise, we discriminate against certain banks, restaurants, (grocery) stores, cell phone and internet providers and electronics manufacturers, for a variety of reasons. We may discriminate against them on financial, political, ethical, moral or other grounds. All of these forms of discrimination are not only rampant but vital for every decision we make in our daily lives. Why do some people swear by their MacBooks or iPads while others wouldn’t even consider buying anything made by Apple? Why do some people eat out at steakhouses while others prefer an Italian restaurant? Why do some people go to regular grocery stores while others shop at health food stores? I am sure most people would agree that these decisions are made based on people’s free will. Yet without exception, they are all based on some form of discrimination. Few will, however, argue that people should be banned from choosing a Samsung smartphone over an iPhone because of the bad reputation of some of Apple’s suppliers. Or that there should be restrictions on our freedom to choose a particular bank because it charges less for ATM withdrawals than another bank. Or that our personal freedoms be limited so that we shall eat out only at steakhouses.
In other words, it is arguably quite hypocritical to demand the government step in to prevent some forms of discrimination but not others, no matter how noble it all sounds. In fact, it goes completely against the fundamental personal freedoms – religious freedom, freedom of association, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and so forth – upon which modern Western society was built
So where does the European Union come into play? Article 13 of the 1997 Amsterdam Treaty reads: “the Council (..) may take appropriate action to combat discrimination based on sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation.” Since the Treaty took effect in 1999, the EU has worked diligently to do just that, mainly in the areas of racism and sex discrimination. Two “directives” – don’t be fooled by the innocuous sound of that word – adopted in 2000, are supposed to establish racial and employment equality. Ironically, these directives specifically support discrimination (yes, you read that right) if it can be labeled “positive action”, i.e. if it is meant to “prevent or compensate for existing inequalities”. The logic of adopting legislation that explicitly supports a particular form of discrimination to fight discrimination is totally beyond me, though given the source from which this legislation originates I cannot say I am surprised. Besides, I am sure there are plenty of bureaucrats in Brussels who, by use of some twisted logic, could make that sound perfectly reasonable to the uncritical masses. Regardless, I don’t understand how discriminating against the majority is somehow acceptable while discriminating against the minority is not. Maybe it’s just me.
Anyway, without boring ourselves with all of the anti-discrimination legislation emanating from our Dear Leaders in Brussels, let’s take a recent example. Earlier this year, a proposal was put forth mandating that 40% of company directors be female by 2020. Fortunately, the proposal failed due to opposition from several member states. A more diluted proposal, however, is expected to be able to garner more support and seems to have a better chance of passing sometime next year. The whole idea is so ridiculous it beautifully exemplifies the point I am trying to make here (and for the record, I don’t think men are inherently superior to women).
The point is that if I were a woman – or a member of an ethnic or other minority for that matter – the last thing I would want is for the government to try to “protect” me from being discriminated against by discriminating against everybody else. To clarify, let’s say the aforementioned proposal had been adopted in its original version, meaning that by EU law, all businesses would have to have 40% of company directors be female. Now let’s assume I am a woman and I am asked to serve on the board of company XYZ shortly after this new law takes effect. Needless to say, my colleagues will wonder if I made it onto the board based on my abilities and performance at work or based solely on this new law. Their suspicion will make me feel patronized, causing friction in the workplace and quite possibly having a negative effect on the performance of the company. The net result is that everyone loses and nobody wins. Except for the EU bureaucracy that is, which will have once again extended its nanny state powers.
An honest examination of anti-discrimination legislation, therefore, can only conclude that it serves to benefit a totalitarian government at the expense of everyone else in society.