By now, many readers probably are wondering: How on earth did our country get into this mess?! We can now examine this question in some detail. There is good reason to conclude that affirmative action is just the latest battle in a centuries-long conflict between two visions of human social reality and human possibilities.
Affirmative action is a product of what Thomas Sowell calls an unconstrained vision of human moral and social possibilities, a vision "in which man was capable of directly feeling other people's needs as more important than his own, and therefore of consistently acting impartially, even when his own interests or those of his family were involved." 1 According to this vision, the egocentric predicament has resulted from particular social and economic arrangements and thus is not an essential or permanent feature of the human condition. A society can transcend the egocentric predicament by changing its social and political institutions.
In contrast, the constrained vision of human possibilities accepts the existence of a self-interested human nature and takes the egocentric predicament as a given. It recommends policies and procedures that innovate within broad parameters and, in so doing, attempt to maximize social benefits, but that recognize that