The determinist might reply that anyone who makes anything determines its ways of acting, and so determines its subsequent behaviour : even the human mechanic does this by his choice of materials and structure for his machine, though he does not know all about either of these : the mechanic thus determines, though he may not foresee, his machine's actions.
(These are practically equivalent because any such rules could be regarded as setting certain things beyond his control, and .) The second of these formulations is relevant to the suggestions that we have already met, that an omnipotent God creates the rules of logic or causal laws, and is then bound by them.
Liberals often try to defend affirmative action as fair compensation for historical injustice. To put their argument crudely and briefly, they say that whites got ahead unfairly for centuries, and now it’s time to help blacks get ahead.
Twentieth-century economics adopted a revised version of Bentham’s utilitarianism, no longer arguing that the level of happiness itself is scientifically explainable or measurable, but focusing instead on the fact that human beings identify various material outcomes as preferable to others. Economists still followed after Bentham, however, in thinking that the study of individual behavior can and should be a matter for science, that the real basis for individual happiness lies in consumption of goods and services, and that the comprehensive application of economic knowledge (with that of other social sciences) would lead to maximum happiness, the ultimate goal of society.
But the historical-injustice argument is not the only or the best argument for affirmative action. Liberals do better when they argue that affirmative action is justified as a remedy for current discrimination. They need to show how affirmative action is not the enemy of “merit,” but its protector.
For decades, conservatives have argued that affirmative action subverts merit by helping less qualified minorities and hurting more qualified whites, whether in college admissions, employment decisions, government contracts, etc. They have assumed the existence of impartial tests and procedures, e.g. the SAT or the written firefighting exam at issue in , whose results affirmative action ignores or shortchanges. When these tests show wide gaps in performance between the races, conservatives shrug their shoulders and say that’s too bad. After all, it’s not our fault blacks don’t do as well on these tests. Or, if it is, then the proper solution is better education (which, of course, means school vouchers) and better parenting. Whatever you do, though, you can’t just throw out the results of an impartial test of merit.
Bentham’s utilitarian moral philosophy provided the grounds for a host of social reforms in nineteenth-century England, many of which Bentham successfully pushed for himself. If Smith was an advocate of individual market freedom, Bentham’s utilitarianism was a precursor to modern democratic socialism, applied as the foundation for a science of affirmative governance. Even today, the standard forms of economic analysis are framed in utilitarian terms ultimately derived from Bentham and his greatest disciple, John Stuart Mill. Economic growth is central to such conceptions, not as the objective in itself, but as a necessary means to maximum total consumption — and thus to a society’s greatest welfare.
[The study’s] core findings suggest that disadvantaged black students do better on hard questions, which contain large words with unambiguous meanings. Students can learn these words in practicing for the SAT. Black students do worse, however, on easy questions, which are mostly made up of simple words. “Simpler words tended to have more meanings, and in some cases different meanings in white middle class neighborhoods than they had in underprivileged minority neighborhoods,” according to Matthews.
In addition, therefore, to adequate solutions, we must recognise unsatisfactory inconsistent solutions, in which there is only a half-hearted or temporary rejection of one of the propositions which together constitute the problem.
In order to justify assessments of “merit” where blacks and whites perform differently from one another, you have to assume that they perform differently because they actually are different and immutably so: because blacks are dumber, or , or what have you. In order to critique those assessments of “merit,” you have to assume that blacks and whites have basically equal capacities, and that differential outcomes on certain assessments are attributable to differences in cultural background, education, social class, etc.
The twentieth-century British economist John Maynard Keynes shared this moral philosophy in significant part, but he differed in one key respect. Rather than implementing scientific management directly through governmental actions — the path of socialism — Keynes believed that the progressive goals of society should instead be achieved by the management of the workings of the marketplace — the market “mechanism,” to use the revealing term . By discovering the “laws” of the market, economic theorists could lay the same kind of foundation for economic and social engineering that the laws of physics establish for building bridges. This positivistic vision of science as a means to achieve progress is still a key part of the self-image of mainstream economists, a reflection of American progressive values derived originally from the secular religion of French positivism.
By defining ultimate objectives in strictly human terms, Bentham took a large step toward atheistic moral philosophy. While Smith invoked the guiding hand of a deity, for Bentham the future of mankind lay directly in human hands. As secularism continued to rise in the eighteenth century, the true source of human misbehavior — of “evil” in the classical Christian formulation — was seen by Enlightenment thinkers increasingly in environmental terms (here using the word “environment” not in its ecological sense but in its more general sense). Human beings were not innately bad owing to a moral fall in the distant past; instead, harmful environments made people bad. This notion introduced a hope that would become a central element of secular religion: improving the quality of the environment would naturally lead to an improvement in the quality of human lives. The world would be a far happier place and individual people much less likely to cheat, steal, or commit other immoral acts. With the economy as the newly decisive environmental factor, economics seemingly could save the world.