England Invents New Kind of Inequality

A female named Harriet Harman at England’s Equalities and Human Rights Commission has discovered a new method of producing inequality under the law.

She has codified this method—England’s version of a legal patent—in a Parliamentary procedure called an “Equality Bill.” England, like many European countries, has proudly led the way in producing unequal treatment under the law for its citizens in the name of “Equality.”

The law mandates that organizations consider the “impact” of their policies on “minority” groups. This method of inequality was, of course, already well known. Harman’s genius was to insist that any group which holds distinct beliefs can form their own minority. To quote: “A belief need not include faith or worship of a god or gods, but must affect how a person lives their life or perceives the world.”

Harman gave “vegans” as an example of a new minority. A “vegan”, she said, is a person who “eschews the exploitation of animals for food, clothing, accessories or any other purpose and does so out of an ethical commitment to animal welfare.”

Lest you feel this is arbitrary, the Daily Mail reports that “[a] spokesman from the commission explained: ‘This is about someone for whom being vegan or vegetarian is central to who they are. This is not something ‘thought up by the commission’.”

Incidentally, it should be pointed out that no human can be a complete vegan in practice. It is impossible for a human to eat without both directly and indirectly killing animals. Many small animals—insects, worms, mice, and so forth—are killed both in the planting and harvesting of the vegetables vegans eat. The fields also provide a food source for many animals, and they in turn provide a food source for various predators. Thus, the very act of planting a crop causes the death of many animals.

In any case, the classification of minorities covers “any religious belief or philosophical belief” or and even “a lack of belief.”

Among the many anticipated successes of this new law will be the banning of dress codes (which might discriminate against transsexuals) and the outlawing of “ladies’ nights” at pubs.

That’s the news, now the analysis.

A minority group is defined as a set of humans who share a belief that is “central to who they are.”

Now, a set—in mathematics, anyway—can include just one, or even no, members. In the name of “equality”, then, England must admit that any belief, even if it is held by just one person, as long as that belief is “central to who they are.”

Technically, this must also be true for a belief that is (currently) held by nobody. I won’t insist on this definition, but examples of easily frightened bureaucrats anticipating protected beliefs are too easily brought to mind.

The law will require that organizations consider how their policies might adversely “harm” minorities. The law doesn’t say “harm”, but that, of course, is what it will amount to in practice. No minority sues for redress against advantages.

Inequality before the law arises because it is the minorities that get to define the “harm” they are caused. It is they who get to decide what actions are considered negative and discriminatory. This follows logically. It cannot be, for instance, the bureaucrat who codifies what counts as harm (for minorities consisting of at least one member), because it is the minorities who define themselves.

Thus, to be consistent, England must allow any individual to claim minority status. She must also allow each individual to define what he considers harmful behavior directed toward himself. And England must write regulations to disallow that harm, whatever it might be. Thus, it must guarantee unequal treatment under the law.

This is obviously insane.

There must have been some lone soul at the Equality Commission who realized this, because he put out that “scientific or political beliefs such as Marxism and fascism would not be covered.”

“Whew!” thought opponents, “At least we won’t have renegade bands of Hitlarians or other militant socialists running around. They’ll be disallowed to claim minority status.”

Maybe so. But if that’s true, the Commission is saying that it knows certain beliefs are verboten, which is equivalent to saying it knows which beliefs should be encouraged. That is, the Commission is saying it has a complete moral code, and that its moral code trumps any other, including those codes that are completely independent of government, such as religious codes.

This is a point of elementary logic. If the Commission can create a minority, it is they who are making the moral judgment of what is good and what bad. Either they must let every behavior claim equal status. Or they must discriminate.

Thus, the Orwell-named Equality Commission guarantees inequality. Since equality is nowhere to be desired, this is fine. But the evidence is that the Commission will discriminate against anything that is traditional in favor of whatever is not. And that is silly.

39 Comments

  1. This is a truly stunning display of non-sequiturs following from incorrect or un-cited presumptions.

    I mean, I’d like to start with your few sentences, but it would just go downhill from there. (“[A] female named Harriet Harman”? Really? That’s some quality writing there. I’d love to know what you mean by the phrase “England’s version of a legal patent”, since it’s very opaque to me. And, just for reference, “England” doesn’t have an EHRC, nor do Parliamentary bills and Codes of Practice affect only “England”.)

    I’d like to list more concerns, but it’s difficult to make my point without any awareness of what your sources are. Well, except for linking to a Daily Mail article; which is about as unreliable a source of information as you can have, when it comes to (mis)interpreting government policies, particularly with respect to social justice, and the dreaded “political correctness gone mad”. But it would be easier to debunk some of your claims if you actually said where they came from.

    Never mind the logical contortions required to follow your argument; especially without any underlying information. (Everything else that I could find on the internet seems to all be extracted from (or simply copying) this article from the Daily Mail, and a similar one from the Telegraph.)

    I can only assume that since you appear to be a statistician, this whole entry is an experiment in generating text using Markov chains, where your corpus is the Daily Mail, Jeremy Clarkson, and generic “outrage” blogs.

  2. A. A.
    You did not say whether you believe Vegans should have some type protected legal status.

  3. A. A. has gone too far! Played the “Jeremy Clarkson” card without provocation, did he?

    The miscreant is accordingly fined 20 quid and sent to the penalty box for 30 minutes. At least that is my belief and how I wish to live my life and perceive my world, even though I know I’m in a minority. Case closed.

  4. A.A.,

    To explain and answer:

    As far as I have been able to determine, Harriet Harman is female. If you have evidence that states otherwise, please give it.

    The “legal patent” bit is humor. Not hilarious, certainly, but mildly funny.

    I had supposed “England” was a well-recognized entity. I apologize for the mistake. It means the Southern part of the land mass that lies directly off the coast of France, where the people speak a strange form of English. I accept, as you say, that its laws afflict more than just the people’s of this land mass. Pity them.

    My source of information for the factual matters comes from the source I cited. Do you have evidence that shows this source is in error? If so, please cite.

    For the logical points, I cite my superior intellect, a well known source of wisdom in many foreign parts. The last time I weighed my brain indicated that it had surpassed the 99.999% quantile.

    I don’t know who Jeremy Clarkson is. Another expert in making logical deductions?

    Finally, you have failed—probably an oversight—to show that any of my arguments are invalid; and if they are, why they are.

    No need to feel shame about this; it’s a common affliction these days. Or can I suppose that you agree with the conclusions but find them distasteful?

  5. @All:

    I apologies for the perhaps abrupt response I wrote. I was in a cranky mood, and this article (and my concerns about it) pushed me over the edge. Combined with a too-outraged writing style, (and a too-outraged reading style, which meant some of the dryer elements of humour passed me by) I came across as more of a jerk than I intended, and I apologise.

    @Bernie:

    I didn’t address the issue of vegans specifically, because I’m unaware of how this proposed Code of Practice affects vegans. Specifically, an unattributed quote from “a spokesman for the commission” that mentions the word “vegan” is not enough for me to determine what the actual consequences of this would be.

    But yes, I think vegans should be protected from discrimination, inasmuch as I feel *everyone* should be protected from discrimination.

    @49erDweet:

    I admit my infraction, and humbly accept my penalty.

    @Briggs:

    As I said above, I admit my initial knee-jerk reaction meant I may not have been aware of how much your tongue was or wasn’t in your cheek, and I apologise if I was missing some of the joke.

    That being said:

    – I’m not denying Harriet Harman is a woman, obviously. I’m saying that starting your article with “A female named Harriet Harman” is an incredibly patronising way to preface a discussion, even if it is factually accurate. Any more than me commenting on your post by saying “So-called ‘academic’ William M. Briggs wrote…”

    – Again, I may be missing the joke, but I am *aware* of the existence of a entity known throughout the world as “England”. However referring to things as “England” or “English”, when it is actually correct to say “Britain” or “British”, may be a simple naming exercise to you, but to me suggests to me a lack of familiarity with things British; including: how parliamentary democracy works, how governmental policies are discussed, promoted and implemented, as well as a wariness for using the Daily Mail as a factual source of anything.

    – Finally, when it comes to sources of factual information (which I implied you were neglecting), I don’t consider the Daily Mail to be one. They don’t refer to a context in which the mentioned quotes are given, nor do they refer to which Code of Practice (of the many you can find on the EHRC’s site) they refer. There are also no sources or citations for the other conclusions they draw from what the Code of Practice says. (I appreciate that if you’re unfamiliar with British journalism, you may not be aware that the Daily Mail is often cited as Britain’s answer to Fox News’ idea of “Fair and Balanced”, but in your own words: “No need to feel shame about this; it’s a common affliction these days.”)

    With regards to my concerns about logical deduction, I’ll save that for a separate comment, since I already feel like I’ve derailed your comments enough.

  6. Harriet Harman is in fact a senior British poltician, and currently Leader of the House of Commons (equiv to Nancy Pelosi).

    Amongst many other scary things, she favours women only electoral lists, except in a currently vacant constituency favoured by her husband. Ah well, plus sa change……………..

  7. As I said, I’m putting my logical debating skills in a separate comment. Although, I hope you’ll feel free to delete as much of the comment(s) as you see fit, since I’m guessing you didn’t want someone writing pissy essays in your comments.

    I’ll try to keep it brief, but here’s a few logical points I’d take issue with:

    * “Harman’s genius was to insist that any group which holds distinct beliefs can form their own minority”

    I suspect this is less to do with Harman’s genius, and more to do with the definition of “minority”. (Well, provided that you add the provision they are a group who are *numerically in a minority*.) What else can you use to define a minority except (a) their numerical inferiority, and (b) a shared set of attributes they possess?

    * “Incidentally, it should be pointed out that no human can be a complete vegan in practice.”

    Even if I accepted this was true (which I don’t, but I guess this comes down to semantics and pedantry), it is irrelevant. I can only assume that you would make this point to somehow devalue the idea of “vegans” as a legitimate minority, in the sense of “a group which may need protecting against discrimination”.

    * “Inequality before the law arises because it is the minorities that get to define the “harm” they are caused. It is they who get to decide what actions are considered negative and discriminatory. This follows logically.”

    I disagree; I do not think it follows logically. A minority group does not get to define the harm they are caused. The language used by the EHRC is quite clear; it seeks to encourage equality through non-discrimination in service provision (as well as in employment, etc.).

    The nature of “discrimination” is clearly articulated in EHRC’s “Advice and Guidance” page:

    “Discrimination when providing services means:
    * refusing to provide a service
    * providing a lower standard of service
    * offering a service on different terms than you would to other people”

    I don’t see any provision for giving free-reign to define harm.

    * “It cannot be […] the bureaucrat who codifies what counts as harm (for minorities consisting of at least one member), because it is the minorities who define themselves.”

    Again, perhaps I’m being too dry/literal, but this is another non-sequitur for me. How does the definition of the group impact on the definition of harm?

    I don’t see how the fact that a group chooses a shared set of attributes that defines themself prevents the Act (or the Code of Practice) from defining “harm”. It is clear from reading the EHRC’s site (and as much of the Codes of Practice I had to time to read this morning) that the harm is clearly defined, and identical for all groups: discrimination in service provision/employment/etc.. Specifically, in the context of service provision, the definition is as above.

    * “She must also allow each individual to define what he considers harmful behavior directed toward himself.”

    Again, I don’t see how that follows at all.

    * “scientific or political beliefs such as Marxism and fascism would not be covered”

    I cannot find this quote in any sort of context; everyone just seems to be reprinting the same story the Daily Mail ran. You’ll forgive me for being skeptical of unattributed quotes to “a spokesman”, but it’s just the way I am. I could see nothing in the Code of Practice I read (which again, is not a lot, but probably more than the Daily Mail article author) that distinguished between what “philosophical views” were suitable to define a minority group, and which ones weren’t.

    * “the Commission is saying it has a complete moral code, and that its moral code trumps any other”

    The Commission is not saying that. An unattributed single-sentence from a commission “spokesman” is being interpreted as saying that. Nothing on the EHRC’s site (nor the Act itself, nor interpretative Codes of Practice) tells me that the Commission thinks it is able or willing to determine which minority groups are “allowed” to exist.

    * “the evidence is that the Commission will discriminate against anything that is traditional in favor of whatever is not.”

    This was the real kicker for me (although understandably, you want to finish your article with a punch.) I see *no* evidence that the Commission is willing to define, with specifics, what an “unacceptable” minority group is.

    I *especially* don’t see where there is *any* indication that even if they *were* to do such a thing, that there is a bias for the non-traditional at the expense of the traditional. I’m sorry that that one essentially-unattributed sentence from “a spokesman” is not enough to convince me.

    Ranting-ness aside, I apologise if I’m being the boring stick-in-the-mud who goes off half-cocked because I don’t get the joke.

    “For the logical points, I cite my superior intellect, a well known source of wisdom in many foreign parts. The last time I weighed my brain indicated that it had surpassed the 99.999% quantile.”

    Well, that’s fair enough. 🙂 I think I need to start using that as my justification for most of the things I say. (Assuming there’s enough room in the “99.9999% quantile” for both of us.) 🙂

  8. ‘Harperson’ is the preferred descriptor in many jurisdictions.

    And use of ‘England’ is probably surprisingly accurate, as the predations of Westminster fall mainly on the English and England.

  9. AA:
    You say “I think vegans should be protected from discrimination, inasmuch as I feel *everyone* should be protected from discrimination.”

    You need to define “everyone” and “discrimination”.

    There is a fundamental difficulty with this type of law making in that as one expands the groups that are protected from discrimination one is increasingly likely to discriminate against others. I believe this is the absurd end state of Ms Harman’s policy.

  10. Incidentally, I’d like to apologise for the incredible number of typos, and spelling and grammatical errors I’ve made in my comments. (Please be aware that the embarass me as much as they amuse you.) I was writing too quickly, and a comment box is not designed for extensive copy-editing.

  11. A.A.,

    Aren’t you a sweetheart. Thank you for your current comment.

    No barb to Harriet Harman, female, intended. It’s just that for articles on “equality”, you can’t be too careful.

    I accept what you say about the Daily Mail. So I deserve having my words flung back at me.

    But given that, can you say where their article is factually incorrect?

    Luckily for me, even if the article misquotes, my larger logical point stands. Except for equal treatment under the law, equality is impossible and even undesirable.

  12. A.A.,

    As to typos: they are a venal, not a mortal, sin, and small ones at that. Regular readers will know what I mean.

  13. Briggs,
    This thing that Harriet has done could be very good – a real innovation – the equality of inequality. It works both ways.

    If my affliction, whatever it might be, excluding nazi-ism, or pederasty, is equivalent to yours, race, mental capacity, religiosity, whatever, then we’re back to where we started and giving preferences to any sub-group over any other sub-group becomes very challenging. And by the way, we haven’t been in that situation here in the states for a very long time.

    I always liked auto-graveyards. When i was a kid, they could have interesting cars in them. Then Ladybird came along. She didn’t like auto graveyards – maybe they reminded her of home.

    So she got the government to require that they be surrounded by visual barriers.

    Just think. If Harriet had surfaced with her great idea in a more timely fashion, I might have found some standing on which to oppose the barriers.

  14. Matt:
    I think you meant venial. not venal. However, some venial sins may be venal and some venal sins are mortal sins. Typos are seldom venal and on blogs are typically venial.

    A.A.
    If the discrimination you define, i.e.,
    “Discrimination when providing services means:
    * refusing to provide a service
    * providing a lower standard of service
    * offering a service on different terms than you would to other people”

    is the discrimination Ms Harman is referring to, then I am at a loss to figure out why she sees a need to specifically protect groups – unless of course there is an effort to define a service provided in ways that the original service provider had not intended. For example, a Vegan goes to a McDonald’s and insists on having their vegetarian burger cooked by tools and people that have not also cooked regular burgers. Is Ms Harman suggesting that McDonald’s must comply? Do you think McDonald’s should comply.

  15. Matt:
    Was that a deliberate joke or an ex post facto joke? If the former, quite! If the latter, quiet!

  16. Bernie,

    Nice example you give. McDonald’s should never comply.
    If McDonald’s will comply with the demands of the Vegan, then they are offering a service to the Vegan on different terms than they would to other people, so they are discriminating.

    If McDonald’s will not comply to the demands of the Vegan, it looks like they won’t comply by refusing to provide a service. This however is not true, the Vegan is asking a service McDonald’s doesn’t provide at all, the same as the butcher doesn’t sell you a bread and the bus driver doesn’t clean your windows (normally speaking).

    It would be a nice case if this bill passes, To forbid The Pirat Bay will be against this law, and what about all those people who don’t believe in paying taxes?

  17. Briggs: very funny post. A.A.: even funnier comments. Looks like the Logician got your goat!

    Personally, I think Harriet is an ass, regardless of his/her gender. However, I welcome my new status as a protected minority of one, and if I ever go to that peri-European landmass I will squawk with righteous (and legal) indignation at the services I receive.

    Mike, Grand Poohbah of the Righteous Squawker Minority

  18. As an Englishman with some experience of the kind of policies Harperson and her colleagues have enacted, as well as a passing aquaintance with the journalism of the Daily Mail, I am personally quite prepared to believe that a Mail journalist looked at the bill’s provisions and Harperson’s statements then phoned the commission and pointed out that the recommendations would cover Nazis or any other group of smokers, nasties or plain crazies that claimed minority status’ I’m also quite prepared to believe that the staffer who answered the phone said: “Oh no! Obviously we would decide who is covered”, thus making the whole thing a laughing stock.

    The daft thing is that when you point out the unintended consequences of this sort of malarky you get called ‘obstructionist’, and when it all falls flat on it’s face it’s somehow your fault.

  19. A great danger in all social engineering projects is the failure to acknowledge there will always be unintended consequences. Societies are held together by the “illusion of common value”- when this veil is pierced the community often devolves into tribalism. The paradox here is the goal to show everyone is unique and protected within one big happy community often produces the opposite effect- it tears apart the fabric that produces the sense of community. “Protected values” cannot be compromised and the more we highlight and embrace our differences the more we tend to polarize around these issues. What is needed is the “wilfull suspension of disbelief” something impossible if we keep shoving our differences in each others face (A great early paper on this by Beryl Crowe 1969 “Tragedy of the commons revisted”) If someone wants to be a vegan fine but if being a vegan means lecturing me about my lust for red meat then we will have problems. Be a vegan- I’ll be a meat sucker- and lets agree to just shut up about it when in each others presence.

    A significant contribution to mankind’s misery is the belief we can have a perfect anything and the search for the perfect solution often leads to final solutions. A guiding principle I find refuge in was well said by by Wm Blake:
    “You cannot have Liberty in this world without what you call Moral Virtue, and you cannot have Moral Virtue without the slavery of that half of the human race who hate what you call Moral Virtue.”

    Social engineering projects tend to focus on what makes us different— this has a long history of being a very bad survival strategy. Blake is correct- “we all should just move along- nothing to see here.”

  20. “…. nor do Parliamentary bills and Codes of Practice affect only “England”. Actually, they often do. In the British Calendar Act of 1751 you’ll find:-

    “WHEREAS the legal Supputation of the Year of our Lord in that Part of Great Britain called England, according to which the Year beginneth on the 25th Day of March, hath been found by Experience to be attended with divers Inconveniencies, not only as it differs from the Usage of neighbouring Nations, but also from the legal Method of Computation in that Part of Great Britain called Scotlond [sic], and …….”

    Observe: different parts of the country had different calendars from 1707 to 1751. N.B. Wales was then treated as part of England. Ireland had its own parliament – I don’t know which calendar it used.

  21. Further to dearieme’s comment: The term “England” used in the British Calendar Act would also have included England’s colonies in North America. Irrelevant to the present discussion, I know, but I thought I would add to the confusion.

  22. You can find the code here.

    There are generally two main issues with equality law. First, whether it is equality of opportunity or equality of outcome. And the second is whether economic cost justifies discrimination.

    There is a third theoretical issue in defining what distinctions are to be protected. It’s not logically possible to protect people with *every* personal attribute, but in practice it isn’t an issue because they never try. Only a specially selected subset of favoured attributes are protected, generally those that are currently politically or socially fashionable amongst the political elite. You won’t find smokers, homophobes, or (non-active) paedophiles in that list; nor fox-hunters, gun-sports enthusiasts, children who like sweets with their school lunch, right-wing journalists, or catastrophic man-made climate change sceptics. It’s a cute way to discriminate in the name of non-discrimination.

    This current bill does extends the list (I think the idea was to get Islam in to the list of protected attributes, with other stuff coming along to hide what they were doing), but be assured that it won’t extend it to protect anyone the current government doesn’t like, so you can forget about that.

    While the theory is that the bill should protect equality of opportunity, all the examples and tests cited discuss equality of outcome. For example, equal pay cites the actual pay for men and women, without mentioning any possible alternative causes. You sometimes get different outcomes because people are genuinely different – in their capabilities, desires, and external circumstances.

    The other issue is over measures that cost time, money, or effort to implement, or where a service provider specialises for economic reasons. This is particularly the case for the disabled, where it may cost tens of thousands of dollars extra to cater for certain needs, but you can’t take that into account. You either offer the service to everybody (and charge everybody equally), or nobody. In many cases, the result is that nobody gets the service. The same goes for things like maternity leave – the cost to small businesses is enormous.

    There’s plenty in the actual code to comment on. A belief “must be worthy of respect in a democratic society.” What does that mean? Chapter 14 encourages positive discrimination. “It is never unlawful to treat a disabled person more favourably than a non-disabled person.” Stuff like that.

  23. Speaking of England, its a great place to visit because even though they don’t speak a comprehensible language visitors from North America can read every sign. It’s amazing.

    Matt, I always thought besides being a statistician to the stars you were a sophisticate. Tivo a couple of “Top Gears” on BBC [spit, spit] America if you ever want to discover what people like J. Clarkson, who can’t do anything well mechanically but still knows how to debate magnificently, lives and plays.

    A. A. times up, out of the box you may come. Good show with your mea culpa comment. I shall agree to disagree with your pernicious fear of “discrimination”. Life requires a certain amount of it in everyone. It is, however, not the same thing as unfairness. It would help if we had clearer definitions.

  24. The Rt Hon Harriet Harman MP (pronounced “Harperson” in our quaint English style for obvious reasons; known affectionately as Harpyl in dear old Blighty) is Deputy Leader and Party Chair of the Labour Party, member of the Cabinet as Leader of the House of Commons, Lord Privy Seal and Minister for Women and Equality… no less.

    That she should be sealed in a privy and flushed away is in no doubt in the minds of most.

  25. Briggs – you say

    This may be a consistent position, but sadly it is not true. Spokespeople have already ruled out extending the legislation to cover The Church of the Jedi. *turns off lightsabre and sobs into his robes*

  26. All the banter aside, it would be interesting (perhaps morbidly so) to follow-up with the silly law cited and review what happens with groups having a clearly defined minority view that characterizes a) who they are AND b) that that viewpoint is factually wrong AND c) that group desires truth.

    Then, how would the transfer of a truth, that they desire [if perhaps unwittingly] changes their core identity. This would clearly be a traumatic experience for them, but also, it would conform to part of what they claim to desire (truth).

    In other words, people are complex & contradictory creatures & this law is designed to protect the internal contradictions (cognitive dissonance) from being consciously recognized (at least in many cases). That’s another illustration for its inanity.

  27. 49erDweet said: “Speaking of England, its a great place to visit because even though they don’t speak a comprehensible language visitors from North America can read every sign. It’s amazing.”

    From the Equality Bill:

    An authority to which this section applies must, when making decisions of a
    strategic nature about how to exercise its functions, have due regard to the
    desirability of exercising them in a way that is designed to reduce the
    inequalities of outcome which result from socio-economic disadvantage.

    Quod Erat Demonstrandum.

    You can read the Bill yourself here: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200910/ldbills/020/10020.i-v.html.

  28. @Bernie

    > You need to define “everyone” and “discrimination”.

    Well, I think, as an abstract ideal, “everyone” is pretty clear; and I’m happy to use a definition of discrimination like the one we’ve already mentioned.

    > as one expands the groups that are protected from discrimination one is increasingly likely to discriminate against others.

    I agree that that is *a* possible outcome of endlessly continuing to move legislation (or, God forbid, public opinion) in that direction.

    But I still think that there is a non-absurdist “happy medium” somewhere in between “where we are now”, and the point at which *everyone* is a minority, and no one can do anything without discriminating against *someone*.

    And so obviously, to get to that point (which may non-existent; but I don’t think so), we have to increase our protection against discrimination.

    Just because the language of the Bill or the Code is blunt and simplistic doesn’t mean these laws are intended to be implemented in a vacuum, with no common sense or rationality. I mean, the Codes of Practice (for Bills like this) exist specifically to make it clear where and how common sense, and practicality, and common good, etc., influence the interpretation of the law.

  29. @Briggs

    > But given that, can you say where their article is factually incorrect?

    No, I can’t. But I can’t say where their article is factually correct, either. And since (I’m arguing) *we* can’t know what the truth is, then any logical argument that stems from it is academic, at best; and possibly completely irrelevant, depending on the actual facts.

    > Luckily for me, even if the article misquotes, my larger logical point stands. Except for equal treatment under the law, equality is impossible and even undesirable.

    If that second sentence is your “larger logical point”, then fair enough. (Even if I may disagree with it.) I can accept that as a valid argument; but I still maintain that the original article is a poor basis for you to make that point, as evidenced by what I called your non-sequiturs, which were required to get from the starting point to your conclusion.

    As an abstract question, “is equality possible without equal treatment under the law?”, I’ll admit to finding that a fertile ground for argument, and something worth pursuing. And also, something I would have no desire to harass you about, when it’s not wrapped in Daily Mail-inspired rhetoric. 🙂

  30. @Bernie

    > the discrimination Ms Harman is referring, then I am at a loss to figure out why she sees a need to specifically protect groups

    Well, because that’s the only way you can identify specific *discrimination*, as opposed to just a pattern of random behaviour.

    I mean, you have to be able to define a group, to say that it’s being treated differently, right?

    If I refuse to serve, and kick out, every [person of particular ethnicity] that comes into my store, then that’s discrimination.

    If I refuse to serve, and kick out, every tenth person who comes into my store, then I’m not discriminating, I’m just being a dick. (Or if I flip a coin to decide whether or not I kick them out.)

    > Vegan goes to a McDonald’s and insists on having their vegetarian burger cooked by tools and people that have not also cooked regular burgers.

    I’ll admit, this is a tough one. Because I’m in no way suggesting that McDonald’s should (I’d be surprised if anyone supported that).

    But it does sound like a position you could argue the Code of Practice takes. (There was an example about hotels providing vegan meals to guests, in the Code of Practice I read, which suggests that there is at least some consideration along these lines. I’m sorry, but I can’t be bothered to find it again.)

    On the other hand, though, I can see *an* argument (not necessarily one I’m completely convinced by) for saying that, for example, public schools which have a duty to provide lunches to school children, should make an effort to provide a vegan option (under the auspices of “equality” as supported by this Bill.) That’s a lot less crazy to me than McDonald’s.

  31. @49erDweet

    > out of the box you may come. Good show with your mea culpa comment.

    Well, I made an arguing faux-pas, and if I don’t own up to it, I’ll never learn. 🙂

    > I shall agree to disagree with your pernicious fear of “discrimination”.
    > It is, however, not the same thing as unfairness. It would help if we had clearer definitions.

    In my head, I’m using the words roughly synonymously, but you’re absolutely right that we would all need to agree on some definitions before you could take an argument like this anywhere.

  32. A. A. I have to agree what I’ve seen of the Daily Mail would qualify it pretty much the way you say, but – unfortunately for us – it still beats what many of us here in the colonies have to read. That speaks volumes of the current lowly state of NA “journalism”, btw, more than praise for the Mail. For equity purposes this thread from another blog casts the DM in a kinder and more professional light, imo. Cheers.

  33. A. A.

    The fundamental issue remains the same: There is a fundamental difficulty with this type of law making in that as one expands the groups that are protected from discrimination one is increasingly likely to discriminate against others, including the providers of services.

  34. William
    .
    While your thesis is indeed flawless from the purely logical point of view , you focused only on one aspect , namely the number of elements in a subset constituting a “minority” .
    Indeed there is no logical reason to restrict the number of elements in such a subset .
    The only valid restriction is that the number of elements in the subset must be less than the half of the whole set because otherwise it would be a majority .
    1 is perfectly allowed as 5 or 11 007 would be .
    .
    However I would like to mention 2 more aspects showing the (logical) absurdity of notions of “minority” discrimination when one wants to go beyond a pub philosophy after 4 beers .
    First is the problem of subset intersections .
    Let’s define 3 minorities – homosexuals , vegetarians and nazis .
    There are surely examples of people belonging to a minority constituted by the intersection of the 3 subsets , e.g nazi , vegetarian homosexuals .
    “Nobody is perfect” comes in mind … 🙂
    Clearly the fact that the intersections are not uniformly empty prevents to select protected and non protected minorities because one would immediately run in logical contradictions with the fact that for example by discriminating the nazi minority one would discriminate at the same time a homosexual minority for all those who happen to be part of both .
    .
    Obviously the alternative , if one wanted to make the difference between acceptable and unacceptable minorities would be to arbitrarily declare a minority ranking where people belonging to N minorities would be considered as belonging only to the highest ranking minority . And then low ranking minorities are allowed to be discriminated against .
    But even with this solution I would be very amused to participate on a cabinet discussion defining whether islamism outranks homosexuals or not 🙂
    .
    But my main point is that the most important discrimination is not liking somebody .
    It is even a defining property of a vast majority of people that they don’t like somebodies .
    A very unacceptable discrimination of course because most people (and many among them being utter bastards) think that they deserve to be liked by everybody .
    Yet this feature being one of those that are most universally shared in mankind , we must take it for the fact it is .
    If I owned a pub , I would certainly throw out any and all customers that would give me reason to intensely dislike them .
    I also certainly would feel no necessity to justify the discrimination (because that’s what it is) by anything else than by my intense dislike for the person .
    Yes the person(s) would belong to a very discriminated minority .
    For instance I intensely dislike for legitimate reasons communists .
    If I was a pub owner , I would immediately form and actively support the (minority ?) group which consists of shop owners that will not serve communists .
    And to let nobody in doubt , I’d probably put a sign saying “No communists wanted here” .

  35. @49erDweet:

    I wasn’t saying that the Daily Mail *never* produces anything worth reading (your example is particularly positive); but just that it’s often quite beyond-the-pale in terms of being unpleasant. (i.e., the average content may not be too bad; but when it is bad, it’s *really* bad. IMO.)

    @Bernie:
    > There is a fundamental difficulty with this type of law […]

    I agree with you; but I think the whole thing exists on a spectrum. There’s a “free-for-all, say/do whatever you want” at one end, and some sort of crazy “no one can do anything in case it offends someone” at the other; and everything in between.

    The concerns you mention seem to be about saying there’s a point at which it’s actually counter-productive to be more “protective”; which I think I agree with.

    My only point is: saying that the latter extreme above is ridiculous (which I agree with), doesn’t say anything about where we are on the spectrum, and where we should like to be (or, alternatively, which direction we want to move).

    I’m happy for there to be debate about that, rather than dismissing the whole idea out of hand, simply because one extreme is absurd. (Which is what I felt like this original post, and the DM article, did.)

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