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December 30, 2014


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Nick Rowe

This is why you really are my favourite lefty.


Are being a "boss" and a Leftie mutually exclusive?


I think this underplays the reality of prejudice and the role that creating a good mix on ethnic/gender lines can play in reducing prejudice.

Indeed, you yourself often point to evidence that various xenophobic prejudices seem to be much reduced when people actually experience living with people from other places.

As someone who isn't white, I've seen the UK improve on racial prejudice throughout my lifetime. But you can't dissociate that progress from the slow rise of social pressure to consider someone other than "middle aged white men" (like yourself and Nick Rowe) as possibly worth of employing...

And while it may be a weak form of justice, it's better than what we have at the moment - and throwing away "better" in pursuit of utopia that isn't coming any time soon isn't always a positive step.

Ralph Musgrave

Another paradox of diversity is that some forms of diversity ultimately destroy themselves. E.g. mix two races, and ultimately interbreeding produces a “non-diverse” hybrid race. As to culture, some types of culture do likewise. E.g. the British isles had several languages just after the Norman Conquest: Latin, French, Anglo-Saxon and Gaelic. They have now merged to form modern English.

In contrast, religions (and religious sects) tend to keep their distance from each other for a thousand years or more, even engaging in sporadic sectarian warfare and slaughter for centuries on end.


FWIW Chris is my favourite Lefty too, more rational and less emotional than the garden variety.

How will we achieve the optimal ethnic/gender mix, positive discrimination in the private sector? Do I get points for being left-handed?

Riaz Meer

The fact that under-representation of certain groups (women, the poor, BAME) in areas of power and influence exists, is itself an indication that if this trend was to be reversed it would indeed result in social change. Lenny Henry is probably conscious of this, and therefore underplays the challenge to the status quo ("Downton Abbey will remain the same") for good reason. And is this then the real paradox? Is it only in claiming that the status quo will not be challenged, that effective change be brought about?

Matt Moore

I had the same reaction on reading this - this is the sort of Leftism I could almost get behind. It focuses on outcomes, not expressed intentions; and values, not "fairness".

From Arse To Elbow

Ensuring diversity in "positions of power and prominence" means promoting blacks like "us" and women like "us". Thus national treasure Lenny Henry guest-edits Today. It does not mean promoting "the other lot".

Riaz's equivalence of "women, the poor, [and] BAME" spectacularly misses the point that "the poor" (the other lot) can never guest-edit Today (unlike Lenny Henry or Polly Harvey), because they are incapable. The invisible bigotry of "ability" is more intractable than the visible bigotry of race or gender.

Likewise, Ralph is wrong to suggest that English is the result of the happy commingling of Latin, French, Anglo-Saxon and Gaelic. What Latin we have comes via French (there is no Roman heritage outside of a few placenames), and both are largely the language of property law (plus Renaissance and Enlightenment affectation).

Gaelic is little more than patronised loan-words from the post-Medieval Irish and Scottish peripheries. Brythonic/Welsh has contributed fewer words to the modern English corpus than Hindi.

Anglo-Saxon was a language of both them and us, and what has survived (in standard English) is largely the vocabulary of "us" (i.e. the land-owners who intermarried with the Normans) rather than them. The most despised language remains the Norse/Danish-influenced dialects of the North, which have always been the most "them".

Bob dobalina

Did you cite a paper claiming that immigrants drive rents up as evidence that diversity improves productivity? I can see the leap but c'mon man.

(And yes, Dillow and de Boer are always the centrists' favorite lefties)

Laid back Aussie

real life seems to fly in the face of the claim that ethnic or gender diversity is economically beneficial. If you ignore the mega cities of the world (whose diversity is really a product of their wealth) all the other rich places either at a national or regional level are remarkably homogenous. Makes sense really cooperation and trust are essential to economic growth (along with several other factors), and diversity undermines growth....

Your second point is spot on though, cognitive diversity is pretty weakly correlated with ethnic diversity and from my experience at large organisations the diversity hires were biggest followers is group think. Again makes sense though, people like people who are somewhat similar so if they can't look the same they'll choose someone who thinks the same...

Nick Rowe

Bob (or anyone): "(And yes, Dillow and de Boer are always the centrists' favorite lefties)"

Do you have a link to de Boer please? I don't think you mean the footballer, which is who I'm getting on Google.

From Arse To Elbow

@Laid back Aussie,

Mega-cities are not islands of diversity in a sea of homogeneity. The largest mega-city is Tokyo, which is 98% Japanese. In fact, you have to go pretty far down the list (NY at #10, London at #20) to find classic "melting pots".

Rich countries that are notably diverse include Switzerland, where 24% of the population are classed as foreign, and Sweden, where 27% of the population have a foreign background. In contrast, the foreign-born figure for the UK is 12%.

The idea that diversity undermines growth is not supported by history. Most people would regard the growth of the USA over the 19th and 20th centuries to be better than most, despite the disadvantage of near-continuous mass immigration. One explanation for this is that highly-diverse societies place a greater premium on cooperation and trust, as opposed to blind obedience to traditional norms.

Another explanation is that most growth is simply the product of the quantum increase in population, rather than any native genius in respect of technical progress.

Re "cognitive diversity is pretty weakly correlated with ethnic diversity". Actually, it doesn't correlate at all.



Probably Freddie de Boer:


Neil Harding

Chris, what about class background diversity in the echoelons of power? Surely if you get that right, ethnic diversity tends to sort itself out.

Neil Harding

Chris, surely class background diversity is bigger issue. Get that right and ethnic diversity will sort itself out.

Johnny Johnson

We see this familiar phenomena often: a true market place of diversity constricted into an abstraction. For example marriage being constricted to include only one man and one woman. Or ecological diversity, with its diversity of business models abstracted into a binary abstraction called the stock market where there are only two strategies: buy and sell.

Politically, we this happening to the two party system, as the two parties purge themselves of ideological impurity. And we see it economically, as rift between the haves and the have nots grow ever more vast.


I love your categorisation of types of diversity. And as you know, they aren't mutually exclusive and result in explicit interactions that we need to identify..

The key to success for all 3 are culturing an environment of openness and transparency. Hirers need to Make a conscious decision when recruiting about the future vision for their company and tailoring their questions and search accordingly.

Unfortunately there isn't enough buy in from the top, hence why all these organisational attempts at Diversity fail in 70% of cases.

Johnny Johnson

I think what's driving the controversy over ethnic and some other diversities is economic competition and revulsion towards people perceived as weird.

Economic competition is essentially between those associated with capital and those associated with both low levels of participation the capital markets and low levels of participation in the ownership of assets.

But there is more to it than meets the eye. The weapon used by capital to beat up on the those who possess modest portfolios of wealth is brain power. Capital scans the globe for the best brain power. The war over money is really a war over brain power.

The revulsion to ethnicity largely comes into play when capital imports cheap labor. I don't think people of superior intellect compete directly with the lower classes for jobs. And revulsion correlates more with both modest means and average to lower IQ.

So really society is the rich, who are either smarter or they can hire smart people to look after their interests, and the less well off who are pretty much stuck their own native intellect, which is most likely inferior.

However sometimes, someone born to modest means is endowed with superior intellect. He should be able to elevate himself, through education, to ascend to the higher class. However, with globalism, the higher position might be filled by an ethnic, non-native of equal intellect to fulfill diversity quotas. This can cause conflict, however not based merely on revulsion, but rather a legitimate grievance.

Another grievance can arise when a non-native is chosen not for diversity, but because the non-native has superior intellect. Whilst it might same a fair decision based on meritocracy, businesses and universities owe it to the natives of society to develop their own people. But its cheaper and more competitively advantageous too develop talent from the best stock, scanning the globe to find it. So there is conflict.

Laid back Aussie

@arse to elbow.

Re mega cities what I meant was the wealthy mega cities skew the data (to make it appear that diversity is wealth creating). When in reality these cities are simply attracting new people so because they are wealthy (and become diverse). Sweden and Switzerland are a similar story. Switzerland was very homogenous at a canton level, became wealthy and has attracted other wealthy people. Sweden was very homogenous became wealthy and then immigration has made it somewhat diverse, but that doesn't mean diversity created the wealth....

Re America it was somewhat diverse at some stages (not all) of its amazing growth, but otger factors are at play and secondly its dominant paradigm was assimilation.


«"middle aged white men" (like yourself and Nick Rowe) as possibly worth of employing...»

That's a rather crazy statement because when they lose their existing jobs "middle aged white men" have great difficulty finding a job at the same level they had; some do, but most (more than 2/3) take a large income and status cut and around 1/3 end up long term unemployed.

I suspect the statement quoted above is the usual "apex fallacy" where one observes that most people in positions high power are middle aged white men; but that's not because they are middle aged white men, but because they are insiders (by inheritance or sometimes their own hustling).

From Arse To Elbow

@Laid back aussie,

What is this "data" you talk about, in which mega-cities make it appear that diversity is wealth-creating? There is no simple correlation between city size, diversity and wealth because these are independent factors.

At a country level, the diversity of the population is far more the product of geography and labour mobility than of wealth. For example, it is easier to recruit workers to Geneva from France than from Zurich, or to Zurich from Germany than from Geneva. Switzerland's high foreign population has more to do with mountains than tax-exiles.

Sweden's wealth is largely the product of economic growth in the 50s and 60s, which was facilitated by the introduction of free labour movement among Nordic countries in 1952. The largest foreign-born group in Sweden is Finnish. Since the 70s, Sweden has taken in large refugee populations from the Middle East and former Yugoslavia. You could claim that this proves wealth leads to diversity, but then you could claim that the 1952-70 era proves the exact opposite.

To suggest that the US's dominant paradigm has been assimilation looks odd when you consider its history of genocide and racial segregation. To imply that there were stages when the US was not "somewhat diverse" is just baffling.

On balance, diversity is economically beneficial (for the reasons outlined by Chris), but this is only one of many factors in growth, such as the quantum increase to population from immigration. To insist that diversity is not wealth-creating is dogmatic.


There are innumberable kinds of diversity, as many as there are parameters
which differentiate human beings. But it is telling that one of the most prominent of those parameters is not even alluded to by the writer and commenters here: age. Over 60's amount to almost 25% of the population, which far exceeds the proportion of people who belong to an "ethnic minority". How visible is this 25% on TV and radio? To what extent are their views and
opinions taken into account? And why are there numerous blog posts, newspaper articles, TV and radio programmes and so on about ethnic diversity, but not age diversity? It's OK folks. Those were just rhetorical questions. We know that old
people are yuckiest, most uncool, non-vibrant minority imaginable, and isn't it astonishingly paradoxical, that the one minority which we are virtually going to become members of, is the least visible? Not only that, but they can freely
vilified and used as symbols of uselessness, decrepitude and irrelevance. The author of this blog has started a current blog post with a reference to Tony Blair as a "sad, old man" - not just a "sad man", note. Nick Cohen recently tweeted that ukippers are "toxic and geriatric". I've read a reference to "coffin dodgers" on
this blog. I don't expect any responses to what I've said. I offered Chris Dillow some useful homework on his Twitter account. I think all those who read this could benefit from listening to all three programmes:


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