THE MORALITY OF AFFIRMATIVE ACTION: “The students at a university are always the students who were admitted. They feel hurt or outraged if they think the message is that they shouldn’t be here. They’re here, in the room, and the individuals who did not get in are not here to cry out with corresponding outrage. . . . The policy will only affect individuals who are not in the room, who are out there, just as the students who didn’t get in this year are out there. The difficult thing — and the true moral challenge — is to visualize those who are affected who are not in the room to express pain when you hurt them.”He links to the essay "What Is Seen and What Is Not Seen," by the 19th century political economist Frédéric Bastiat, who begins:
Another case of what is seen and what is not seen. Politicians — among whose number I certainly count university presidents — advance their careers by exploiting the difference between the two.
In the economic sphere an act, a habit, an institution, a law produces not only one effect, but a series of effects. Of these effects, the first alone is immediate; it appears simultaneously with its cause; it is seen. The other effects emerge only subsequently; they are not seen; we are fortunate if we foresee them.My son John Cohen also quoted my seen-and-unseen comments, and he associated the general principle with the specific problem of capital punishment, quoting an article by Cass Sunstein and Adrian Vermeule called "Is Capital Punishment Morally Required?" In that context, statistics indicate that capital punishment has a deterrent effect, but the people who are not killed are, of course, never identified. What we see is the convicted person, with whom we may feel challenged to empathize, and the dead person, whom it is too late to save.
There is only one difference between a bad economist and a good one: the bad economist confines himself to the visible effect; the good economist takes into account both the effect that can be seen and those effects that must be foreseen.
The phrase "seen and unseen" calls to mind the Nicene Creed:
We believe in one God,I wonder if that was ever intended to refer to things that are unseen because they never happened, the alternate version of reality that would exist if we had made a different decision. But that is the moral problem I want to notice, and I will designate with a new tag "seen and unseen." I have 2 more things I want to talk about under that heading. One has to do with Rick Perry and the other has to do with Dan Quayle. But I'll put these in separate posts.
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.