Diversity Training Won’t Solve Racism

The national headquarters of Sigma Alpha Epsilon is requiring all of its members to undergo diversity training in response to a recent controversy in which the fraternity’s Oklahoma University chapter was filmed reciting a racist chant on a bus to a social function. This reaction is all-too-typical in higher education. Jamal Watson notes in Diverse Issues in Higher Education that such programs are “often implemented in response to a polarizing incident on campus, like the discovery of a noose, a swastika or anti-gay epithets scribbled across a bathroom stall.”

But, is diversity training remotely effective in combating racism? Or is it merely a band-aid attempting to heal a much deeper wound of socioeconomic disparity?

Evidence from the workplace suggests the latter. A 2007 Harvard University studyreviewing 829 companies’ diversity training over 31 years found the programs had “no positive effects in the average workplace.” In fact, the study even found negative effects on management diversity in firms “where training is mandatory or emphasizes the threat of lawsuits.”

How could training aimed at combating racism do the exact opposite of its intended aim? Peter Bregman, CEO of Bregman strategy, provides an answer in the Harvard Business Review. Recalling an investigation he conducted for a major media company about their workplace diversity, he explains how the firm’s sensitivity training went awry:

The scenarios quickly became the butt of participant jokes. And, while the information was sound, it gave people a false sense of confidence since it couldn’t possibly cover every single situation.

The second training — the one that categorized people — was worse. Just like the first training, it was ridiculed, ironically in ways that clearly violated the recommendations from the first training. And rather than changing attitudes of prejudice and bias, it solidified them.

“Diversity training doesn’t extinguish prejudice,” Bregman is left to conclude. “It promotes it.”

Read the rest at Rare…

Why Big Tobacco Is So “Concerned” about E-Cigs and Your Health

“When it comes to e-cigs, Big Tobacco is concerned for your health,” writes Martinne Geller for Reuters. Her article attempts to explain the recent trend of tobacco companies working with the US government and public-health advocates for more stringent regulation of electronic cigarettes (e-cigs).

“Why would tobacco companies want more regulation?” one may ask. Well, when we look at the incentives involved for each concerned party, this unholy alliance makes perfect sense.

Just days before this Reuters report hit the internet, a team of well-known professors of regulatory policy released a report explaining why this alliance would form. The answer lies in the familiar parable of “Bootleggers and Baptists” laid out by Bruce Yandle in the journal Regulation. Coincidentally, it is this same journal that would publish the report on e-cigarettes 22 years later.

Simply put, industry incumbents seek regulation to keep upstart competitors at bay, while moralizers (the “Baptists” in the parable, or anti-tobacco groups today) seek to regulate the industry to make selling products they dislike more difficult. Both sides seek regulation, but for very different reasons.

In this case, moralizing e-cig opponents have joined with “Big Tobacco” and government tax offices to stymie the growth of e-cigs in the market. Each group has a distinct interest in regulation. Many health advocates seek to further stigmatize the perceived act of smoking, and want to treat e-cigarettes like traditional, combustible cigarettes to achieve this goal.

Major cigarette companies seek to make moving to alternative products more difficult, further entrenching their current, dominant position. Government officials, faced with falling cigarette-tax revenues, seek to prevent further drops by either taxing e-cigarette products or shoring up dwindling traditional cigarette sales.

All these groups are doing exactly what one would expect given the incentives that they face. Note that nowhere in this conversation is the consumer, nor the independent e-cig producers. Moreover, in many cases, public-health officials who seek lighter regulations are flatly ignored.

Read the rest at the PanAm Post…

The Origins and Intentions of Copyright

In a victory for media Goliaths, the Supreme Court recently ruled that TV-streaming service Aereo “perform[ed] … copyrighted works publicly” and therefore violated copyright law. The ghost of Grokster haunts us. Napster rolls in its grave. Copyright’s muscular hands have once again strangled innovation.

What is the purpose of copyright law? Conventional wisdom asserts that it protects the rights of authors, spurs creativity, fights plagiarism, and benefits the public as a whole. The Aereodecision, however, clearly benefits big media without advancing any of copyright’s ostensible aims. A look into the origins and intentions of copyright will demonstrate that this is neither a fluke nor a misunderstanding.

The roots of copyright lie in the soil of state-granted privilege. Invented in 1450, the Gutenberg printing press empowered writers throughout the Western world. Authors rejoiced, as their works could now be disseminated as never before. That included potentially seditious or sacrilegious works, much to the chagrin of the State.

To combat the threat, governments cozied up with publishing houses. In 1556 in England, the stationers’ guild became royally chartered as the London Company of Stationers. Along with the charter came a quid pro quo agreement. The company was entrusted with the obligation of “seizing, taking, burning … books or things … contrary to the form of any statute, act, or proclamation.” In exchange, it enjoyed an exclusive monopoly over the printing of all materials — old and new — throughout the kingdom.

Initially organized under the Roman Catholic rule of Queen Mary I, the Stationers Company spent much of its time censoring Protestant works. Upon Mary’s death and the crowning of Elizabeth, religious affiliations flip-flopped. The whimsical nature of the monarchy didn’t bother the Stationers, however. Both the company and the crown reaped the benefits of their insidious arrangement for decades. As University of Georgia law professor L. Ray Patterson puts it, “The power to burn offending books was a benefit to the sovereign (a weapon against unlawful publications), and a boon to the stationers (a weapon against competition).”

When Parliament became more liberal, it allowed the Stationers’ monopolistic privilege to expire. As a result, the Stationers became quite worried. No longer would they enjoy an obscene economic advantage.

Censorship to the point of book burning was not a high priority for the British government. Parliament ignored the Stationers’ initial pleas for statutory protection on the grounds of censorship.

The Stationers recognized that authors needed a publishing company. Dissemination of a work to any degree required a printing press, ancillary equipment, and substantial labor hours. The vast majority of individuals lacked the immense capital required to produce salable copies. With this in mind, the Stationers concocted the argument that authors should own the words and expressions they create.

The Stationers understood that authors eager for dissemination would sell their new property to publishers. Even so, it seemed like a liberal argument. Indeed, as Ludwig von Mises once wrote, “The program of liberalism, therefore, if condensed into a single word, would have to read: property….” Parliament accepted the Stationers’ new argument, and the first Western copyright law soon followed.

Read the rest at the Future of Freedom Foundation…