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August 29, 2011

NYT: Let's Make the Ugly a Protected Class

Well... if you accept the premise of protective classes for anyone who suffers adverse outcomes in life due to an innate attribute, it makes sense. Plainer people have a tougher go of it. I'm pretty certain I've never gotten a job just because of my looks.

But this tends to prove what it isn't intended to prove -- that maybe this whole protected-classes business is silly.

How could we remedy this injustice? With all the gains to being good-looking, you would think that more people would get plastic surgery or makeovers to improve their looks. Many of us do all those things, but as studies have shown, such refinements make only small differences in our beauty. All that spending may make us feel better, but it doesn’t help us much in getting a better job or a more desirable mate.

A more radical solution may be needed: why not offer legal protections to the ugly, as we do with racial, ethnic and religious minorities, women and handicapped individuals?

I see problems in classifying the ugly, and I see problems in the ugly self-identifying to apply for protections.

Bizarrely -- I did not know this -- California, of course, is already doing something like this, at least in some cities.

We actually already do offer such protections in a few places, including in some jurisdictions in California, and in the District of Columbia, where discriminatory treatment based on looks in hiring, promotions, housing and other areas is prohibited.

Let me suggest a principle:

Laws should be serious.

When you pass a prohibition, you are threatening legal sanction against the prohibited conduct. This is not fun and games. You are threatening legal consequences, including imprisonment or fine (which is the seizing of property), for violating that law.

Now, given the inherent difficulty in enforcing this law -- how do you prove "ugliness" in court, and how do you prove someone was discriminated against for that reason? -- does anyone think this is a real, serious law, or is it more like some kind of feel-good guideline of how some soft-hearts hoped the world might be?

The legal codes should not be cluttered with feelgoodery.

Laws are serious. They are specific restrictions on our freedom on pain of imprisonment or seizure of property.

Lawmakers should start acting as if they're serious, or there are going to be... problems.



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posted by Ace at 04:30 PM

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