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Diversity as good business strategy

The indisputable orthodoxy today is that companies need to be able to integrate all sorts of people into their workforce, and that diversity is strength. Hence such things as the following: Diversity drive at BP targets gay staff , and Wales: Training Service Opened To Combat Homophobia In Workplace. If you think there’s a problem with homosexuality you’d better get with the program. The war against bigotry doesn’t allow conscientious objection or sanctuary, and besides, hate is bad for business.

Quite apart from the issues of personal freedom and integrity it raises, this diversity orthodoxy is silly.

No one thinks modern conditions require every company to use all available raw materials, provide every possible good and service, or enter into contracts with all conceivable customers and suppliers. Why should they require every company to hire every possible kind of employee?

To the contrary, diversity poses obvious problems. Working together calls for common attitudes, expectations and loyalties, which differ by race, class, religion, sex, and sexual orientation. “Diversity” must therefore mean in practice re-educating various kinds of people—drag queens, Christian fundamentalists, radical Islamicists—so they all become the same as far as their interactions on the job are concerned. Even if it could be done and nothing valuable were destroyed by the process, why bother?

On the whole diversity is plainly more a “challenge”—meaning a negative—than a strength. It requires creating an artificial culture composed of people who think and act in artificial ways. As the events surrounding September 11 show, PC robots do not act intelligently. Diversity is plainly not a smart business move, as the noble lord who leads BP seems to think, but a destructive ideology.

The real question is how destructive it will be. Since there’s no limit to the demands of diversity and they trump everything, there is no apparent limit to the trouble they can cause. The adverse effects of diversity can be masked to some degree by making it universally compulsory and integrating it with other things like the educational system. Still, it’s hard to make it truly universal as long as there are other ways of carrying on economic life, through family businesses and networks of independent contractors for example. The former are based on sexual bonds and common blood and heritage, and so are intrinsically racist, sexist and homophobic. The latter are indifferent to multicultural sensitivities.

In the coming decades two important questions will be how much economic life can be carried on in such decentralized forms, and the degree to which the state will allow economic independence to thwart diversity and other schemes of social engineering. The collapse of communism suggests limits to the ability of the state to control economic life, and the rise of the black market in Europe holds out hope as well. Still, liberalism has shown itself much more sophisticated and adaptable in its means of social control than communism, so the evidence is not all in. Time will tell.

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Australia’s (then) largest company, a mining giant called BHP, got into trouble some years ago when a private executive memo was leaked to the press.

The memo outlined research showing that non-diverse labour forces were the most productive, and that BHP would be better off economically by trying to keep its traditional labour force.

Of course, BHP was mercilessly attacked in the press, and made a quick conversion to diversity theory.