Thomas Sowell argues against the pro-affirmative action arguments of James McPherson, who argues that white people such as himself got all sorts of special treatment in the past, which was its own form of “affirmative action.”

Even if we accept all of Professor McPherson’s arguments and redefinitions, what is the conclusion that he reaches? Is he going to resign his professorship at Princeton and his presidency of the American Historical Association as undeserved windfalls? Not on your life!

Instead, McPherson is prepared to sacrifice other people to his vision of undeserved good fortune. “Having benefitted in so many ways from these older forms of affirmative action that favored white males,” he says, he cannot condemn the newer version that “seems to disadvantage this same category.”

In short, older white males of Professor McPherson’s generation benefitted unfairly, so reparations are owed to minorities and women — not from those who benefitted, but from white males of this generation, including those too young to have had anything to do with the advantages and disadvantages he describes. And we thought The Shadow could cloud men’s minds!

This is classic academic self-indulgence in the name of noblesse oblige. Professor McPherson can get credit for noblesse and force someone else to pay the cost of oblige.


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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. John Lemon says:

    As mentioned on Barrel of Fish, there are alot of people whom you might not expect expressing some dissatisfaction with affirmative action. I’m talking some hardcore liberals. AA is creating more division than unification.