Are we too quick to draw the card of racism?

OPINION: Unattractive people do not earn as much as those with pleasant characteristics. I reflect on this as I gaze at the aging, wrinkled, aesthetically challenged face staring at me in the mirror while giving my yellowed teeth a superficial scrub.

It’s a face only a puppy could love; and then simply because I secretly give him treats.

Life is not fair but it is no longer lonely, poor, mean, brutal and short. When the challenge for a society shifts from starvation to the fight against obesity, we move up the hierarchy of needs.

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To live in New Zealand today is to live in one of the richest countries in human history; where even a simple guy like me can make a good living despite my obvious physical deficiencies.

Should the divergence of my opportunities from the more comely appearance be something the state should focus its attention on?

Maybe not; but the wandering eye of those whose salaries depend on researching and solving the great social problems of our time has identified something they believe deserves investigation. Those of Pacific heritage earn less than their colleagues and neighbors in Pakeha.

Why? The Human Rights Commission, as well as any government agency you find, has taken the initiative to study this issue. They paid for a report. It was as horrible as one would expect.

To give the report its due, an analysis revealed that workers in the Pacific did not have the same level of education as Pakeha and worked in lower-paying industries. Once controlled, only about a third of the pay gap could be explained.

However, a degree in education was considered equivalent to a degree in dentistry and the fact that someone pursuing a career as a teacher would earn less than a dentist is considered “unexplained”.

Four reasons were provided; unobserved differences, ethnic preferences in “non-monetary elements of jobs”, discrimination and unconscious biases. It is a consistent theme in this research that the reason for some perceived negative outcomes is racism, greed, or Roger Douglas.

“This research provides further evidence of what we have long suspected – much of the pay gap in the Pacific cannot be explained and is at least partly due to unseen barriers like racism, unconscious bias and discriminatory practices in the workplace,” says Saunoamaali’i Karanina. Sumeo, Equal Employment Opportunity Commissioner.

CHRIS SKELTON/STUFF

Alice Olynsma, medical assistant at Ballarat Rest Home, says care and support workers deserve fair pay. (First published May 23, 2022)

It is surprising, but not surprising, that researchers assume that those who employ staff are racist when there is no evidence from which to form this opinion. The gaps in their data are literally “unexplained”. Racism is an unambiguous moral wrong. It’s a crime. To attribute this sin to a whole class of New Zealanders because your analysis is flawed is, if I’m being polite, disappointing.

It is also easy to refute. You can be solvent or you can be racist, but in business it is very difficult to be both. Whether the assumption underlying these types of reports is valid; that Pacific people are paid less than Pakeha while producing the same level of output, then I could make more profit by hiring Pacifica candidates and paying them less than I pay non-Pacific workers.

My racism would have to be intense to leave that profit on the table and if I was such a terrible person the business owner down the road would outrank me and I would be forced to rely on my handwriting to pay the bills.

A grim prospect for all concerned.

Society is complex. People make different decisions and pursue different lifestyles. The fact that I spend time writing this column rather than engaging in more productive and better paid work is a decision that will lead to me receiving a lower income.

If your priority is community and family rather than wealth accumulation, your life achievements will be different. Some people would rather die with seven children than seven houses and that’s not a bad thing and it’s not a problem that needs to be solved either.

Analyzing the pay gap between different population groups is not something that is done out of academic curiosity. “The Human Rights Commission is conducting a Pacific Pay Gap Inquiry to better understand why the Pacific Pay Gap exists and how it can be addressed.”

One of the ideas put forward is mandatory pay transparency; requiring companies to publish wages by gender and race. The Law of Unintended Consequences will ensure that it reduces job opportunities for low-skilled women and minorities and increases them for inadequate white men.

Other interventions will be introduced to correct these failures in an endless cycle of regression.

Thomas Hobbes, a 17th century philosopher, popularized the idea that the legitimacy of the sovereign rests on the willingness of individuals to give up some of their freedoms in order to avoid a war of all against all; a collective social contract.

It is an elegant solution to the question of the legitimacy of the state’s monopoly on the use of force; but where is the philosophical foundation that allows the sovereign to use this power to fabricate a utopia?

We have taken it for granted that the Crown has not only the right but the obligation to engage in programs of social engineering to produce a society that upholds the preferences of the cultural elite even as it defies the wishes and customs of population.

Cultural change on the level envisioned cannot be achieved without draconian intervention in the details of our economy and society and an unshakable certainty by those in power that escalating costs are a necessary price to achieve their Arcadia.

Their ignorance is matched only by their determination and the absence of any will to confront these cultural commissioners means that their ambitions will translate into politics with the inevitable and now unavoidable perverse consequences.

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