Walter Block: Affirmative Action May Be More Responsible for COVID Deaths Than You Think


Did affirmative action kill people who died of COVID, cancer, diabetes and heart attacks before their time?

On its face, that is not only silly question, but an offensive one. However, if we look a bit more deeply into this matter, the idea is not at all that preposterous.

Thanks to affirmative action (a more accurate appellation would be negative action), the most intellectually gifted children are no longer guaranteed a spot in the Bronx High School of Science or Stuyvesant High School, the most rigorous in New York City.

Less able high school seniors take the places in prestigious universities from the more able. There are now lawsuits pending against Harvard and Yale for this sort of racial discrimination against Asian-Americans. Similarly, smarter college students are replaced by less talented individuals in graduate and medical schools.

What are the deleterious effects of such a policy?

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First, at least some of the wiser people who were rejected from their high school, college or graduate school of choice dropped out.

Second, those who obtained such diplomas had lower levels of talent than would otherwise have been the case.

This means that in the laboratories of the nation, the average level of intelligence is lower than it otherwise would have been in the absence of this vicious negative action program. Ditto for the doctors, chemists, pharmacists, epidemiologists and other researchers whose job it is to protect us from those dread diseases.

That means more people will perish not only from diseases, but also in many other ways: highway fatalities, since road engineers will be less intelligent than otherwise; building and bridge collapses, since architects will be of lower quality; more poverty, since economists will be less able than otherwise; more suicides, since psychologists and psychiatrists will be less prepared.

But this is by no means the end of the problem. It is the rare professor who is willing to award a failing grade to a student, at whatever level, who is there mainly due to “affirmative” action.

For to allow them entry into an academic program only to fail them out after admission would be to undermine the entire enterprise.

Any teacher who did so would have to defend his entire course against charges of “racism” even if the subject matter concerned physics, math, engineering, chemistry or other STEM fields.

In order to allow everyone to keep up, the entire curriculum has to be dumbed down a bit. This means that even those students who were admitted under their own steam graduate with less knowledge, less training, less information than they would otherwise have had.

This accounts for the fact that words such as “niggardly” or “nay-guh” (Chinese for “then,” their equivalent of “uh” or “um”) cannot be tolerated on campus.

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It is impossible to determine which patients would still be alive due to the existence of this barking-mad policy.

We cannot retrodict which diseases or other life impediments would have been cured had the people involved in this pursuit been just a little bit more intelligent. All we can point to is the direction of causation.

So-called “affirmative” action reduces to ability of those on the front lines in this regard. End this initiative, and our scientists, engineers, mathematicians will all be a bit smarter than at present on average, better able to pursue the pubic good of keeping us all safer.

This column is dedicated to the memory of Chadwick Boseman, star of the movie “Black Panther” among others.

Why him? This is due to the fact that he perished from cancer at the tender age of 43. He was just a baby; he was only halfway through what should have been a full life.

In a different world, he would have had a life expectancy of, oh, 40 to 50 years more. He was a magnificent actor. He was taken from us, his public, and his family — possibly — due to the negative action program.

I don’t say he would still be with us but for “affirmative” action, but he might well have been.

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Walter E. Block is the Harold E. Wirth Endowed Chair and Professor of Economics at the College of Business, Loyola University New Orleans, and senior fellow at the Mises Institute.
Walter E. Block is the Harold E. Wirth Endowed Chair and Professor of Economics at the College of Business, Loyola University New Orleans, and senior fellow at the Mises Institute.

He earned his PhD in economics at Columbia University in 1972. He has taught at Rutgers, SUNY Stony Brook, Baruch CUNY, Holy Cross and the University of Central Arkansas.

He is the author of more than 600 refereed articles in professional journals, two dozen books and thousands of Op-Eds for publications including The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. He lectures widely on college campuses, delivers seminars around the world and appears regularly on television and radio shows.

He was the the 2011 Schlarbaum Laureate at the Mises Institute and has won the Loyola University Research Award (2005, 2008), the Mises Institute’s Rothbard Medal of Freedom in 2005 and the Dux Academicus Award, Loyola University, 2007.

Prof. Block counts among his friends Ron Paul and Murray Rothbard. He was converted to libertarianism by Ayn Rand. Block is old enough to have played chess with Friedrich Hayek and once met Ludwig von Mises, and shaken his hand. He has never washed that hand since.