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In Britain, “positive discrimination” keeps a qualified candidate off the police force.

Those whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad. At the moment, they seem to be doing rather a good job of it in England.

A young man named Matthew Furlong wanted all his life to join the police. He was of good character, some of his relatives had been in the force, and he was physically fit. He was, moreover, highly intelligent: he had a university degree in physics.

Nevertheless, he was turned down, on the grounds that he was white, male, and heterosexual. The police force to which he applied had no room for him. The question for the recruiting board was not whether he would make a good policeman but whether he fitted its desired racial and social profile. They wanted not the best man for the job but the man who would supposedly rectify the demographic balance in the force. This was so important to them that they lowered the other criteria of acceptance until there was no place left for him (or anyone like him) when he applied.

But Furlong did not take his rejection lying down; on the contrary, he took it to court, and won an action for racial discrimination. The compensation that the police will have to pay him has not been announced, but it will be the taxpayers—not the cowards, careerists, and half-wits who discriminated against him—who will ultimately have to pay. Love may or may not mean never having to say you’re sorry, but being a bureaucrat surely means never having to pay for the consequences of your mistakes.

This case might be the reductio ad absurdum of a system of recruitment by demography, or at least by certain features of demography—“positive discrimination,” as it is called. Yet even the most positive of positive discriminators would not want 9 percent of policemen with an IQ lower than 80, or 15 percent with a Body Mass Index of more than 35, just to reflect accurately the population of the country. But in Britain, Furlong’s case is more likely to be dismissed by intellectuals and the political class as extreme, marginal, or anomalous, rather than an exposé of the intellectual dishonesty and damaging results of this method of recruitment.

Though it is probable that a great majority of the population would be appalled at the way in which Furlong has been treated and horrified by a police-hiring system that deliberately rejected an excellent candidate on irrelevant grounds, it is unlikely that any prominent politician will dare to oppose the principle of positive discrimination—because he will fear the outraged reaction of his peers and the intelligentsia more than he values giving voice to his fellow citizens.

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