Discrimination, Affirmation Action, and Equal Opportunity: An Economic and Social Perspective


271 pages
Contains Illustrations, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-88975-039-4




Edited by W.E. Block and M.A. Walker
Reviewed by Stephen J. Kees

Stephen J. Kees was Chief Librarian, Niagara College of Applied Arts and Technology, Welland, Ontario.


“Nothing abuses a person’s sense of natural justice more than unequal treatment of equals” (from the Introduction). However, it is only in recent years that action has been taken, especially by governments, to remedy such situations. And the results of these activities have often been the opposite of what was expected.

Each section of this work is devoted to one of the words or phrases of the title. Within the sections are chapters by different authors on various aspects of the theme. In the first section the United States cases of Weber and Bakke are considered in detail, along with an extended discussion of affirmative action and its presuppositions. The second section looks at the economics of racial discrimination and demonstrates that many of our preconceived ideas in this area are not correct. The section concludes with a presentation of an economic theory of discrimination.

The third section comprises a study of sociological impact of forced equality and includes references to Canadian experiences. In asserting that imbalance may not be discrimination, a lengthy report is given on a study conducted in a large company. This study shows that structure does not perpetuate discrimination, but that it is largely due to the attitudes and actions of the individuals themselves.

The work ends in a novel way with a short story by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., “Harrison Bergeron,” with a futuristic theme about equality. The whole work demonstrates some of the unclear thinking in our efforts to rid ourselves of what we believe to be discrimination in all forms. It should be required reading for many politicians and other leaders.


“Discrimination, Affirmation Action, and Equal Opportunity: An Economic and Social Perspective,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 18, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/38959.