Thursday, May 05, 2005

Diminishing Returns

Long ago, in my childhood, I remember reading the sentence, "Any program of social reform, when taken to its logical conclusion, produces exactly the opposite result." Either my memory fails me and I read something only slightly like that, or it hasn't made its way on to Google yet. Regardless, it means that the law of diminishing returns will eventually produce negative results.

What brings this up? I read a report from a political action committee about the number of minority actors in prime time television. In the attempt to achieve diversity on television programming, this group complained about, among other things, that Native Americans, who form about 1.5% of the population, are significantly underrepresented. In another case, they complained that, of the few Asians depicted, some were "mixed-race asian". Suppose that this group could achieve their program, and have every racial/ethnic group depicted in perfect proportion (including portions from the mixed ethnic groups): would that be diverse? No. Part of diversity is the randomness of association. A group with, for example, many more Hindus than proportional, would most likely create a different dynamic than a proportional group. Including such a group would therefore create more diversity. Thus, if the PAC achieved its program, it would achieve exactly the opposite result--it would be undercutting diversity.

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