Wednesday, October 14, 2009


The 9 October 2009 article discusses the recent Binghamton law regarding discrimination in housing based on height and weight.


Anonymous said...

I, too, think height and weight should not be considered protected classes. However, isn't it telling that your post devotes *zero* paragraphs to discussing height and weight in particular? What is it about those attributes that deserve less protection than race, sex, religion, and other currently protected classes?

Or do you simply feel, as your post suggests, that we should allow *any* discrimination in employment, housing, and other areas? Perhaps your readership enjoys heavy-handed, boilerplate ideology, but at least this one doesn't.

Jason Legg said...

I am sorry that it took some time to get this posted, and comment on it.

First, I am not sure what "heavy-handed, boilerplate idiology" refers to in the context of the column.

Second, I am always hopeful that readers enjoy the column, but I would be an intellectual fraud if I wrote only what I thought people wanted to hear. Pandering insults both the writer as well as the reader.

Third, I clearly condemned discrimination in the column. This having been said, we all discriminate in our lives -- and the question becomes what discrimination is appropriate and eliminating the inappropriate prejudicial discriminatory actions.

Fourth, every discrimination law necessarily limits freedom to some degree, i.e., the freedom of the employer to do with his property what he wishes. On the other hand, there are times when the goverment has a compelling reason to limit freedom, and the elimination of discriminatory practices is a compelling interest.

Discrimination laws are aimed at eliminating historical prejudices so as to provide an even playing field for all citizens.

The problem comes into defining the protected classes and which groups will get special protection.

There have been numerous studies that suggest that employers rely heavily upon appearance in hiring practices, i.e., height, weight, beauty, and other potentially immutable traits. Obviously, being attractive has its advantages in our society, and the studies show that attractive people are hired with greater frequency.

The ultimate question becomes where does the government draw the line, i.e., which groups get special protection and which do not. Ironically, the selection process for protected classes itself is discriminatory as some classes are protected, while others are not.

There is no easy answer to this question. My general personal belief is that freedom should prevail unless there are truly strong counterveiling policies concerns that warrant restictions on that freedom.