Hello and welcome back to “Pie ponders”, in which Pie – that is me, for those who are new – raises questions on various topics of great importance. Today, we talk about the evil of bias.
Talk of bias in hiring, wage gaps, and glass ceilings is all the rage these days. I will take advantage of glibertarians being a safe space and voice an opinion that would be routinely excoriated in a different environment: bias is inevitable and preventing it is no business of government, as long as no aggression is involved.
But what about the wymminz, you ask? Make love to them if they are pretty and to someone else if they are plain, to paraphrase some shitlord from a while back, a different age it was, because no one would say such a thing in our enlightened time. But seriously, I kid, I kid… I would never say anything so crass. Well, about the women or minorities or whatever the answer is simple: a free market will penalize, although not eliminate, bias and bigotry, and will constantly create new opportunities. Beyond that, life sometimes sucks and you cannot prevent that by giving vast powers to bureaucrats.
Something else controversial: bias is inherent in human experience. People are biased in every aspect of their life- it is called subjective preference. Business is an aspect of life like any other. As I said before, the whole economic/social liberty dichotomy complete nonsense. Human life is a continuum of many aspects and you cannot draw clear boundaries between them. But… but… it’s not fair… Well, life ain’t fair, depending on your definition of fair. Some things are unpleasant or sad or unfortunate. That is the way it is. Luck of the draw, as I mentioned in an earlier article. But whatever you view on the fairness of it all, you will not solve it by government aggression. I can tell you that much. Getting back to bias in the economic area of life, in the end it is no different than choosing who you date. You make decisions based on knowledge and personal preference. And, just like dating, it is an issue of skin in the game (and/or superglue).
Let’s say I own a property which I rent using Airbnb. That property is worth money and it is part of my wealth. It also can be damaged, reducing its value. If this happens, I lose money, so I have a direct interest of it not happening. Maybe, based on personal prejudice, I do not want to rent said Airbnb to say… hot Russian women. That is maybe unpleasant for the group of hot Russian women on a girl’s only vacation in Bucharest who really likes that apartment, but it is my right not to rent them my property. But maybe it is not that simple. Maybe in my personal experience – based on the last 3 times I rented to a group of Russian women – Russian women get drunk and mess things up, it is my right and my decision to avoid property damage and, as such, loss of money. I will instead rent it out to that group of Mormon missionaries. It is probably unfair to these 5 nice Russian girls who just want to see the museums and quietly read some books in the evening. It may even be true that statistically, worldwide, Mormon missionaries do more damage to Airbnb rentals then hot Russian women (based on OECD data for 2015). But, in the end, it is my apartment, my experience of damage, my preference and I choose how to best avoid issues, even if it means stereotyping.
And while some groups had significant historical discrimination – imposed by law, custom and oftentimes both, I am sorry to say that this has nothing to do with individuals in the present. Collectivism tries to make it about groups throughout history, but collectivism is full of shit. Each makes choices based on personal experience and has nothing to do with other groups in the past. Furthermore, not unlike minimum wage, I have significant doubts anti-discrimination legislation, at this point in time, helps various groups more than it hurts. There is always a way to get around it.
As a personal anecdote, the first time I left Romania as a kid in the 90s, I went on a trip to Italy, where it was sufficient to go into a store and be heard speaking Romanian for a shop assistant to constantly keep an eye on us, even follow us around, assuming we were there to steal. Was it unpleasant? Yes. Did it enrage my mom? Sure. But in the end, prejudice or experience, those shop keepers had a right to keep an eye on what they decided to be suspicious persons, as unpleasant as that may have been for me.
If I have a business which I start with my work and my money, and I am the one at risk to go bankrupt, I get to choose who I hire, which customers I target, what products I make, where I source my raw materials and every other aspect about running the business. If I believe hiring a good looking employee helps my business, I will not hire someone I consider ugly. Is it unfair? Maybe. Here some people will say you should hire based on merit, and then exclude looks from the merit part. But can you do that? Not always and not in every business. In the end, the employer decides what merit is, based on the position they are hiring for. Hooters hires for different reasons than the local hardware store.
Bias will not go away. All people are biased, and sometimes – regardless of how often -with reason. You depend on various heuristics – stereotypes among them- in order to make decisions about unknown things and an unknowable future. Some of this bias can be simply bigotry. Thems be the breaks. But, in the end, when you take the risk of a business, no one without similar risk in it should get to tell you what to do, or who to hire. Because if the business fails, it should fail due to your decisions, not ones imposed by others with no skin in the game. And no one can tell you this or that “has nothing to do with the business”. There are a million ways a business can succeed or fail, and they are not clear or known. Hence all the failures. So the owner gets to decide what they want to do. You can avoid hiring women, if you think they work less overtime or they will inevitably leave to have children, or you are just plain misogynist; gays if you think your customers prefer heterosexuals or they make your best employee uncomfortable, or you are just plain against homosexuality; fat people, if you think they are weak-willed or more prone to miss work due to illness, or just don’t like the fatties. You and only you should get to make those judgments. Because it is your business at play.
While a lot of the talk of various gaps can be proven wrong by looking at the actual data, it would not be a correct conclusion that there is zero bias. Bias in individual companies or people is not the same as widespread bias in every company or person. You will always have people who are prejudiced and make biased decisions due to that, people who are incompetent and make biased decisions due to that, people who have been burned before and make more or less excessively biased decisions due to that. But in a free market situation, there are inherent feed-backs that punish bad decision making, whether the bad decision taking is prejudice or incompetence or simply choosing wrong among various uncertainties.
To give a final example, certain businesses in Romania do not hire people from poor non-EU country like say Armenia or India. This would cause fury among certain circles. But it is a simple calculation. People from these countries want to immigrate to the EU, but not really to Romania, and use Romania as a stepping stone to reach Germany or France or whatever. For a company that has hired such people, who then leave the second they find a job further west, it means the company paid them money in the initial stages when they were being trained and not that productive, and the moment they would become productive they left. This can lead to the company to prefer not hiring these people, based on a heuristic they developed from experience. Maybe some of them think Romania is the country for them, but there is little point in taking such a chance. Alternatively, there was great outrage in Romania when some unreproducible study or other showed that in Sweden, for identical CVs, the ones with Swedish names get a higher rate of interview offers compared to ones with Romanian names. But this makes a sort of sense, for a Swedish company, all other things equal, to prefer a Swedish person, at the very least they speak the language and have more predictable habits.
No one is entitled to a certain job or a certain wage or a certain promotion, so being denied one of those things is not a business of government. Well, what about the social justice side of the issue? Well there is no social justice side of the issues, social justice has no skin in the game and also fuck social justice it is a stupid concept.