May 7, 2018

NOBODY WANTS TO TALK PUBLICLY ABOUT MALAYSIA’S AFFIRMATIVE ACTION POLICY, BUT VOTERS SURE DO THINK ABOUT IT: From the Nikkei Asian Review:

For decades Malaysia has granted privileges to ethnic Malays … or Bumiputera [translation: “Sons of the Soil”], under a policy of affirmative action for the majority group that is less wealthy than the country’s ethnic Chinese minority. While this policy has created discontent …, it has largely dropped out of the political debate ahead of general elections on May 9 ….

“There is always unfairness we feel,” a 58-year-old retired ethnic Chinese man told the Nikkei Asian Review on Thursday, speaking of … affirmative action … officially known as The New Economic Policy, launched in 1970. He was attending an evening rally by the opposition coalition Pakatan Harapan, or Alliance of Hope, … which drew about 1,000 people from diverse races. Together, they called for the defeat of Prime Minister Najib Razak’s ruling coalition.

The retired man said he felt that the Chinese were treated as “second-class or third-class citizens.” … [H]e added: “We are all hoping that there will be some changes [in the Bumiputera policy].”

Malaysian politics is not as different from American politics as one might hope. Polls indicate that Americans oppose race-preferential college admissions and employment practices, and the clearer the poll questions, the more strongly they oppose such preferences.  It’s very likely this issue has contributed to the pattern of racially-polarized voting that we see today.

The kicker—as I discuss in A “Dubious Expediency”: How Race-Preferential Admissions Policies on Campus Hurt Minority Students—is that affirmative action admissions policies aren’t even good for their supposed beneficiaries. Nobody ever said public policy is rational.

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