Virtual Reality of Political Ideas

By Thomas Sowell Copyright Creators Syndicate Inc. | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), August 21, 1995 | Go to article overview

Virtual Reality of Political Ideas


Thomas Sowell Copyright Creators Syndicate Inc., St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


Virtual reality may be high-tech stuff but politicians and lawyers have been creating a virtual reality of their own for years with rhetoric.

Nothing illustrated so painfully how much we have bought the rhetoric as celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations, at a time when the tragic farce of that organization was plain for all to see in Bosnia.

What's to celebrate? Only the virtual reality of the U.N.'s image.

Bosnia is not an isolated example. Before that it was Somalia, where the U.N. "peacekeepers" also tried to keep a nonexistent peace. The notion that you can step right into the middle of a war and impose lofty "solutions" is a classic of virtual reality. Meanwhile, back in the real world, the soldiers sent in to implement this vision were bleeding and dying.

There is no reason for the U.N. officials to have learned anything from any of this, because they paid no price. It was other men's blood and lives that were lost. They are ready to fight to the last American, if we let them.

Domestically, such issues as affirmative action have festered amid bitter controversy for decades, partly because the reality could not even be discussed in many places, including the federal courts. Both have been discussed in terms of a virtual reality created by pious rhetoric and weasel-worded evasions.

Those defending affirmative action are quick to point out the historic wrongs done to blacks - but blacks are not even half the people covered by affirmative action. In the real world, white women are the biggest beneficiaries. Explain why the enslavement of blacks justifies giving preferential treatment to white women. Explain why a computer manufacturer who just arrived from India is entitled to affirmative action because of what was done to the ancestors of blacks.

Only in the world of virtual reality do such justifications seem to make sense.

Even in the case of blacks, it is by no means clear that various "underrepresentations" can be traced to historic wrongs. The greatest triumph of virtual reality is the blindly accepted dogma that everyone would be evenly distributed in occupations, institutions, industries and income levels if it were not for discrimination. …

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