Suppose people of Italian extraction are disproportionately affected by anti-racketeering statutes. Would this be a good reason to oppose such laws? Obviously not. Why not? The reason is that the law targets the criminal behavior, not the ethnicity of the criminal. If it just so happens that people of Italian extraction are ‘overrepresented’ in the memberships of organized crime syndicates, then of course they will be ‘disproportionately affected’ by anti-racketeering laws. So what? It is very easy to multiply examples. Who commits more rapes, men or women? You know the answer. Among men, in which age group will we find more rapists? Will there be more rapists in the 15-45 age group or in the 45-75 age group? You know the answer. Laws against rape will therefore disproportionately affect males aged 15-45. Would this be a good reason to oppose such laws? Obviously not. Why not? The reason is that the law targets the criminal behavior, not the age or sex of the criminal.
My two cents
Why couldn’t someone have explained it to me like that years ago?
In America, it seems this issue crops up when it comes to voting laws. In Australia, I remember it cropping up on the issue of mandatory sentencing. Mandatory sentencing is passed off in certain circles as a type of conspiracy against particular demographic groups. It’s a good example of a red herring that relies on emotional manipulation. It would have sucked me in—when I was 15.
Taking that further, I think that if a law disproportionately affects middle-aged white males (for say white-collar crime), then certain pundits can’t get much mileage out of that, and therefore won’t make a point of it. But if a crime affects any other demographic, then it’s easier to get mileage.
Pushing this to its logical conclusion, I’ll have to admit that certain laws will always discriminate against and oppress people of a certain demographic group—and that group is criminals. If I’m not mistaken, that’s inequality, and an unfair advantage to the law-abiding.
It reminds me of the Wizard of Oz, when Toto pulls away the green curtain, and the exposed man says “pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!” (Or his red herrings!)
When the Wizard of Oz was exposed, he admitted he was a humbug. But not so with those who appeal to demographics.
Vallicella, B. (2012). Photo ID: The ‘It Would Disproportionately Affect Hispanic Voters’ Argument. Available: http://maverickphilosopher.typepad.com/maverick_philosopher/2012/08/a-throwback-to-poll-taxes.html. Last accessed 13th Apr 2013.