Unity vs. Diversity

If I was ever to teach a high school class (unlikely), I would at some point probably blurt out something like “The opposite of diversity is unity. You know, as in E Pluribus Unum?” That’s my gut reaction now to almost thirty years of the diversity mantra routinely spouted on college campuses. The libertarian blogger and lawyer, Ilya Somin, of the Volokh Conspiracy (whom I respect), has other ideas, especially when campaigning politicians talk about “unity”.

This emphasis on unity for its own sake seems misplaced. After all, unity is really valuable only if we are united in doing the right thing. Being united in doing the wrong thing is surely worse than being divided, if only because division reduces the likelihood of the harmful policies being enacted.

He’s speaking about politics, of course, but I still couldn’t disagree more. I don’t think his fears are near to being realized, because he’s talking about the silencing of descent, and that’s not what unity is about. I don’t exactly see zombies and cults on capital hill (yet).

In the meantime, the fact of diversity, especially cultural diversity, has only come about only at heavy cost. One has to accept discrimination, one has to accept the deprocation of merit as a qualification and one has to accept, ultimately, quotas imposed by authority to enforce it. And there’s also the deprocation of your earned credencials if you happen to be the beneficiary of diversity.

But wait. If you read the linked post, you may be screaming at me right now that Somin never once uses the word “diversity”. He’s talking about something else, you say? – the use of “unity”, as in George W. Bush promising he would be a “uniter, not a divider”?

Sorry. Somin also says:

[U]nity rhetoric seems to be popular… Popular enough that nationalists, socialists, fascists, and communists have all made effective use of it. Remember “One People, One Fuehrer, One Reich”? No, I am not saying that Obama (or Bush) is like the Nazis and Communists. Far from it. However, the Nazi and communist examples do dramatically illustrate how unity doesn’t have any intrinsic value. The achievement of national unity made these regimes even worse than they would have been otherwise, not better.

Um… I’m calling Godwin anyway, despite his protestations.

I think Somin is trying to point out that on both the left (communism) and the right (fascism), the calls to unity have had disasterous effects. Clearly, he needs to read Jonathan Goldberg’s latest. Moreover, I think a truer reading of history would show that it wasn’t calls to unity that was the problem. It was the scapegoating of specific peoples that was the problem. Calls to unite were merely tools to that end – quite literally, “Kill that one so the rest of us can move together.” That’s noticably different from “Out of many, one.”

Notice the genius of the founding fathers? I don’t think Ilya Somin did.

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