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» The Ornery American Forum » General Comments » Affirmative Action v. Nepotism

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Author Topic: Affirmative Action v. Nepotism
Gaoics79
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I was thinking about nepotism today, and how it wasn't such a terrible thing. It seemed to me that if you have a family member who knows someone who can get your foot in the door, why not take advantage of this? Certainly, I don't approve of the kind of nepotism that leads to totally incompetant people getting jobs with impunity, but put it this way: if your son needs a job, would you not give him one in the family business? If your neice could use a break, and you know someone in the industry who can help her out and find a job, would you not give her a hand?

I always thought the people who cried about nepotism in this innocuous form were mostly hypocrties who would likely give the same help to their own family, if they were in a position to do so.

But then I thought about affirmative action. As some know, I don't approve of AA, for a host of reasons, but mainly because: 1. It reinforces racist assumptions and brands entire groups of people as inferior, 2. It is simply racist, and totally inconsistent with fundamental principles of equality.

I was wondering if there wasn't some inconsistency in my stance on these two issues. I suppose I would argue that nepotism is just a private act between private individuals; it isn't exactly public policy. But then again, the counter-argument is that most institutions that practice AA are private institutions like universities. If they want to select candidates based on race, how is that different from your father selecting candidates for a position at his factory based on the fact that you're his son?

I guess that answer to that is that nepotism isn't racist, and the law says that you can't discriminate based on race, even if you can discriminate on other basises. So it's ok to exclude people from your nightclub if they're fat, ugly, dirty, smelly, loud, obnoxious, short, etc... but you can't exclude them for being Chinese or Indian.

But why can't we discriminate based on race? Well mainly because the government has established this as a prohibited ground of discrimination, for public policy reasons. Quite simply, we don't want to live in a society where I can put a sign outside my nightclub saying "no dogs or blacks" so we make this illegal.

But if public policy is the source of this prohibition, then isn't it disingenuous to rely on this prohibition against discrimination based on race to attack affirmative action, which is essentially the same kind of public policy based initiative?

Getting back to nepotism, if people are allowed to give favour to their family members over strangers, and let's suppose that certain traditionally poor and economically disadvantaged groups have less "advantages" to give out to their family, then the inequality would tend to perpetuate itself, wouldn't it? This would tend to support a public policy argument in favour of AA?

So here's the long and the short of it: is it hypocritical to work in your dad's factory, knowing that you got the job specifically because you are his son, but meanwhile be against affirmative action?

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Richard Dey
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You might talk to Robert M. Coard, director in perpetuity of Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD), who got rid of the Jewish founders of the organization and is a white racist who has hired relatives and 'close friends'. Maybe he has some answers on this difficult "family life style" issue. Or you might talk to anybody in the USVI government in Charlotte Amalie ...!
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Jesse
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Nepotism has been historically racists in effect, and even today it's largely racist.

Now, Nepotism by *owners* of a privately held company is fine - that's called a family business. If a private owner wants to hire his alchoholic son to sit in a room and snort coke, and call him "Vice-President of Bolivian Importing", it's his money. Not saying it's good business, of course.

To some extent, nepotism in publicly traded companies is a problem, specifically if it's practiced in secret. After all, in that case it's ussualy not the majority of the ownership involved in the nepotism...they're being dupped into thinking that the Managers and Execs they're employing are hiring the people who will make the most of their money, not trying to keep it in the family.

Nepotism in Government hiring is intolerable. No one will ever convince me, by the way, that Powells Son was the best guy to head the FCC. I read his resume.

Nepotism, and the hiring of friends, places those without such contacts at a serious disadvantage. This, as much as the specter of overt racism, is what AA was designed to counteract.

Most of us have dealt with "They won't hire me without experience, and I can't get any experience if they won't hire me". How do most get around that? A friend or relative puts in a word. Well, in some neighborhoods, it's pretty damn hard to find any friends or relatives who are even in the work force, let alone have the pull to get someone a box-boy job.

Of course, none of this means that I think AA is ussualy the best way to deal with such systemic problems.

[ June 02, 2007, 07:30 PM: Message edited by: Jesse ]

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flydye45
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Jesse, using an absolute worst case scenario doesn't further your argument. How about a child who has been raised in a company, knows it's people, knows dad's ways, has "mascot" loyalty from the employees. All things which don't show up on a resume, yet hint at MORE competancy, not less. But Hollywood likes to push the "worthless son" scenario despite ample evidence of multi generational companies which succeed.

But then you get a Paris Hilton...

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Jesse
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Fly, just saying that even in the worst case scenerio, it's not our business at all when it comes to a privately held company.
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flydye45
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That's a fair statement. But even in a publically traded company, one shouldn't dismiss a bit of nepotism, all else being equal. But all else has to be equal.
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Carlotta
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I can see the problems with this though and how it ties into race. Almost every job I've ever had (5 out of 7) were because I knew someone higher-up who influenced the hiring me if not hiring me directly.

You know what I just realized? I have exactly ONE black friend, and I haven't seen him in 4 years since graduating from college. Pan knows this guy, as well as TWO others black people he works with. So if I were ever in a position of hiring, just because of this I would probably be more likely to hire a caucasian or hispanic (who mainly comprise our friends) than a black person.

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TomDavidson
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Carlotta, what industry are you in, where you mainly hire your friends?
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Gaoics79
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quote:
Nepotism, and the hiring of friends, places those without such contacts at a serious disadvantage. This, as much as the specter of overt racism, is what AA was designed to counteract.
Whoa there. I agree with the thrust of what you're saying, but calling it "racism" is inaccurate and misleading. Racism does not = "disproportionately benefits one race over another". That's sloppy thinking on your part. Racism requires conscious or subconscious discrimination based on race. Hiring my son to work in my department at office X isn't racist just because my son happens to be white, and people in a position to hire their sons are mostly white.

Not that I disagree with the overall point, which is that nepotism tends to benefit some racial groups disproportionately, but I refuse to recognize this as racism. That's a bogus use of the word.

You might as well say that Hurricane Katrine was racist because it disproportionately hurt black people.

[ June 02, 2007, 11:02 PM: Message edited by: jasonr ]

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Jesse
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Jason, bud.

quote:
This,

as much as the specter of overt racism,

is what AA was designed to counteract.

Not nepotism is *morally* equal to racism!

It's at least equal in terms of effect. It's the intent of AA programs to make up for it.

Nepotism (more broadly, disparity in access to social networking in the work force, friends as much as family) is probably a larger factor than racism today, although racism was probably the larger factor when these policies were implemented.

[ June 03, 2007, 12:21 AM: Message edited by: Jesse ]

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FiredrakeRAGE
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Jesse -

The thing about hiring friends and family is this: you know them. Resumes are not an effective way to hire people because they often are not indicative of actual strengths. That is why the hiring of friends/family persists despite a strong social stigma against it - it is highly effective.

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Richard Dey
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Right, FDR, and Napoleon hired Joseph to be King of Batavia and an infant son to be King of Rome; Europe's royal families intermarried to reproduce the gibbering ape; and nepotism did, after all, define the Mafia family lifestyle -- but it's like incest: it can enhance good genes and bad. I'm not disagreeing with you, mind you, but there is something smacking of eugenics and eugenicism in these all-too-natural tendencies. I'm conflicted and ambivalent about it.

As to hiring friends, what else are good friends for? They're willing to die for you -- or, like Brutus (wasn't he actually a relative of GIC's), willing to kill you when you get out of line.

"That was a printer's error, Lord Dracula. Actually, we were advertising for a nepotist. But we'll keep your application on file."

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Carlotta
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It's not that I'd mainly hire my friends, but like FDR said, it's common (or was, when I worked in a banks' HR dept) to get many resumes for a job opening, all of whom are perfectly qualified on paper. So you do interviews, but the first ones you interview (of the qualified ones) are the ones that come with some sort of personal recommendation. This bank even had a policy of giving preference in summer temp help to the children of their employees.
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Snowden
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quote:
Most of us have dealt with "They won't hire me without experience, and I can't get any experience if they won't hire me". How do most get around that? A friend or relative puts in a word. Well, in some neighborhoods, it's pretty damn hard to find any friends or relatives who are even in the work force, let alone have the pull to get someone a box-boy job.
That's the main issue. Private industry is dicey. It's a morally complex issue when our sense of family values conflicts with our rhetoric of equal opportunity.

First off, Carlotta and jasonr, thanks for being honest with yourselves and the forum, most of the morale damage done by nepotism is exacerbated by people who have benefitted, and then turn around and deny its existence.

What's most troubling is how it affects the public sector, from the hiring of Gonzales to no-bid contracts and even city-level contracts and private companies who are vendors for 501c3s, or some drugs users are being put in jail more often than other drug users, that's the nepotism that destroy's the public trust and fractures our society.

In America, there is an extent to which cultural differences mirror racial differences, partly because of our complicated and undealt with history of racial strife, and if your culture determines your associates, then neopotism is going to lower the morale of anyone who is not in the cool clique, and, as is what I see in America today, ruin the out group's trust in American instiutions.

Now, I'm a fan of Affirmative Action as a counter-weight to nepotism, just as I'm a fan of Unions as counterweights to rapacious owner greed. Neither side of either coin is perfect, but it's a compromise that I can abide by, until we can find a better way to deal with these issues of public trust in a culturally diverse society.

I do think that more companies who are at all affiliated with the public sector should be encouraged to train and hire from within, as opposed to V.Ps hiring their friends to be V.Ps to white collar jobs.

[ June 03, 2007, 04:27 PM: Message edited by: Snowden ]

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