The Clash of Moralities in the Program of Diversity

Howard S. Schwartz
of Business Administration

Oakland University

Rochester, Michigan 48309

(248) 684-5345

(248) 370-2122



The Clash of Moralities in the Program of Diversity



Organizations overwhelmingly support diversity, but there is no evidence that it has any value. What is more, given the chance to find out whether it has value, they had no interest. What can this mean?

This paper suggests that organizations support diversity because opposing it would be politically incorrect, which is to say immoral in a certain respect. But the exchange processes that define an organization are also maintained by morality, though of a different sort. There therefore arises a clash between the politically correct morality that supports diversity and the morality that underlies exchange. But exchange defines the very nature of organizations, so the morality of political correctness represents a moral attack on organization itself. Organizations’ lack of interest in research on the consequences of diversity arises from the desire to keep this moral antagonism from being brought into the open.

The destructive capacity of political correctness in support of diversity is supported by press accounts of the recent history of the Ford Motor Company.

KEYWORDS: Political Correctness, Diversity, Morality, Ford


The Clash of Moralities in the Program of Diversity




Given the importance that organizations give to the idea of diversity[1], one would think that its virtues would be clear and undeniable. One might be surprised to find that there is no good evidence supporting the value of diversity[2]. Equally peculiar is the fact that the companies who place so much value on diversity don’t seem to care whether there is evidence or not.

These were conclusions reached in a recent article by Thomas Kochan and others (2002), which summarized the results of an extensive five-year research project.

At the behest of a non-profit organization called the Business Opportunities for Leadership Diversity (BOLD) Initiative, and with funding from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and the Society for Human Research Management, Kochan and his co-authors, a prestigious and well-connected group, undertook their research to provide empirical support for the idea that diversity is a business imperative – support that until that time had been lacking.

Their first surprise was that few organizations were interested in participating in the project. Of the more than twenty Fortune 500 companies who were approached, all of whom expressed interest in the research topic, only four agreed to participate, each of which had prior connections with the researchers or the leaders of the BOLD Initiative.

Of more direct importance, though, was the finding that diversity did not have the sort of unconditional positive effect on organizational outcomes that its prominence on corporate web pages would seem to indicate.

As the researchers put it:

Despite the variability in industry contexts, specific practices, and performance measures we examined, our quantitative results are strikingly similar. We found that racial and gender diversity do not have the positive effect on performance proposed by those with a more optimistic view of the role diversity can play in organizations—at least not consistently or under all conditions —

Now, they follow this by saying:

but nor [sic] does it necessarily have the negative effect on group processes warned by those with a more pessimistic view. Most analyses yielded no negative effects on team processes at all, but when racial diversity was shown to have a negative effect, it was mitigated by training and development focused initiatives.

Yet the conclusion that diversity does not generally produce negative effects, or at least negative effects that cannot be mitigated, misses an important point. It is that diversity by itself is not an inexpensive matter. There are costs associated with diversity. At the head of the list one must note that there must be a bureaucracy to organize and administer diversity programs, and that bureaucracies always have costs. Even the “training and development focused initiatives,” which Kochan and his coworkers cite as ways organizations mitigate the effects diversity would otherwise have, must have costs. Second, let us note a matter that is almost as obvious. It is that a program to increase diversity, at the very least, involves preferential treatment of those groups whose representation needs, in the name of diversity, to be increased. Generally, this will take the form of preferences in hiring and promotion. In other words, diversity implies what is generally called “affirmative action.”[3]

Affirmative action has costs, over and above the costs of administering such programs. In a 1993 article in Forbes magazine, Peter Brimelow and Leslie Spencer estimated the cost of affirmative action to be around four percent of GDP (Brimelow and Spencer, 1993)[4]. This may be an exaggeration, but it hardly seems possible to get away from the idea that the costs of affirmative action, and diversity generally, are substantial.

So what we have here is a matter that is most peculiar. An expensive practice is undertaken by vast numbers of corporations, whom we all know like to think of themselves as concerned with efficiency. One would think that its benefits would be obvious and massive. But in fact there is no backing for it. On top of that, this is a matter that major corporations, when they had the opportunity to find out about the program’s virtues, had no interest in pursuing.

Yet in the absence of demonstrable benefits for affirmative action, there is no way of getting around the fact that diversity is a cost without a benefit. It is a loser.

Diversity is a loser?

Having said that, we feel the moral foundations of the universe start to crumble.



Let us step back a bit from the logic of the analysis and have a look at ourselves as we are doing it. My wording has been intentionally provocative because I wanted to evoke a reaction. It is this reaction that is of interest to me.

I believe that most people in our society, a number in which I certainly include myself, will respond in a certain way. For the purpose of analyzing the resultant feelings, I will assume that the reader has this response. Since I do also, I will use the term “we” to designate those of us who react in this way.  As I have said, I believe the response is characteristic of most people in our society. That must be considered only a hypothesis at this point, though I believe it is testable. The reader will have to determine whether he or she fits within this class.

   At any rate, based on my own case and on my observations of the responses of others, I believe we respond to a statement like “Diversity is a loser” with a feeling of discomfort and heightened anxiety. We have a feeling of a moral boundary having been violated. The proposition that has been derived has a feeling of moral badness. Perhaps the word “racist” comes to mind, either with regard to the writer of the present piece or the reader, should he or she take the matter seriously. In any case, the feeling of discomfort is palpable, and we find ourselves looking for ways to escape it.

Now let us note that the process that we are going through, in which we try to evade the conclusion about the costs of diversity, is itself a social process. We are, by now, all familiar with the phenomenon, and associate it with the idea of “political correctness” or PC.

By all accounts PC began in the university, but I submit that it has made very powerful inroads in the corporation as well. The point that I want to make is that political correctness is an organizational process, and one that has organizational consequences.

It is easy to think of PC as a process that controls what people say, and perhaps we think of it as being limited to that. But reflection tells us that a taboo on saying certain things must affect our behavior as well, since what we cannot say cannot be used as a justification for an action, or as a reason for it. Hence, if there is any argument to be made for the opposing action, even the most spurious argument, it will carry the day; the opposing action will be adopted. This suggests an answer to the question of how it is that diversity, an expensive program with no good case to be made that it has positive benefits, has come to be adopted. It suggests the possibility that it has come to be adopted because it is politically incorrect to argue against it.

I shall return to this point in a moment. Before that, however, it will be useful to consider what may be the most substantial argument against this view. It is that organizations bolster their diversity by give hiring preference to minorities because they are responding to social expectations. According to this view, the public wants and demands that organizations hire people in accordance with certain demographic proportions and that they express these demands formally through law and informally through buying decisions and the like. Organizations, according to this view, are making the perfectly rational decision to avoid these sanctions by using preferential schemes in their hiring practices.

The problem with that view is that the public does not demand preferential hiring practices and has demonstrated its distaste for such preferences in poll after poll. For example, an article in The Washington Post, giving the results of a Washington Post-ABC News national poll says:

Three out of four Americans surveyed said they opposed affirmative action programs that give preference to minorities to make up for past discrimination, and a virtually identical proportion felt the same way about programs for women, according to the survey. And more than two out of three said those programs should be changed – or eliminated.

They say, “The survey found that affirmative action, like most racial issues, sharply divides whites and blacks.”


within communities of color, a debate about affirmative action also rages: Nearly half of all African Americans interviewed said they opposed affirmative action programs giving preference to minorities. (Moran and Warden, 1995)

This is a finding that has been repeated time after time, even at the level of statewide voting for ballot initiatives in California and Washington. As I write this, a voter initiative to ban preferences in state hiring and university admission has been approved for the ballot of the 2006 election. Polls predict that it will pass. For example, a report of a Detroit News poll taken in January, 2004, said:

When read language from a petition on the affirmative action issue, 64 percent of poll respondents said they favored the ban; 23 percent were opposed. (Cain and Hornbeck, 2004).

The question, then, is how the social and legal demands for preferences that organizations face can be consistent with this overwhelming opposition. The answer I suggest is that people fear being accused of bigotry if they express themselves in public, but they feel less constrained to express their opposition in private. If this is true, then the forces that shape the public demands to which organizations respond are not the product of real social desires, but the forces of political correctness.

This brings me to a point where I can say what this paper is about. It is not, despite appearances, about diversity; nor is it about affirmative action. It is about the forces that underlie political correctness, which I maintain are driving the programs of diversity and the attendant affirmative action. And it is about the effects that such forces may have on organizations, even without regard to those specific programs.  

Diversity and affirmative action may be costly matters, without much benefit to balance them out. But costs so created exist within a larger framework of costs, and they therefore must be judged within the context of that overall framework. In other words, they may make an organization less efficient than it otherwise might be, but many factors may contribute to an organization’s inefficiency. Our judgments here must be relative, and it is by no means certain that diversity stands high on this list.

The problem that concerns me is not with an organization’s efficiency, but with its effectiveness. This is not a relative matter, but an absolute one. The question of effectiveness is whether an organization can do what it is intended to do. My contention is that the forces of political correctness are antagonistic to the business of an organization, and may undermine its capacity to do carry out its function, largely regardless of the relative cost of doing it.

Thus, if we return to our experience of entertaining a politically incorrect thought, we will see that the politically incorrect idea is not simply experienced as one which cannot be said, and indeed one which cannot even be thought, but one which it is morally bad to speak or think.  But what is that bad thought? I suggest that it can be no more than that the organization must consider profit and loss; in other words, that it must consider what it needs to consider if it is going to prosper and stay afloat.


The clash of moralities

Schwartz (1990) has used the concept of organization decay to describe the ways in which an organization loses its capacity to cope with reality as a result of giving itself to the process of maintaining a fantasy. Organizational decay may be said to institutionalize irrationality. In addition to the problems that arise in any system of institutionalized irrationality, diversity creates another set of problems based on its political correctness. In political correctness, irrationality is moralized (Schwartz, 2003; Hirschhorn, 2004). A belief in the virtues of diversity is a belief that an individual must hold if he is a good person, while somebody who opposes diversity is not only wrong and out of line with required organizational belief, he is morally bad.

In order to get an idea of the damage this moralization can do, it is necessary to recognize that morality is built into organizational behavior. This is a fact that is often missed, even by those whose business it is to study business ethics. Yet it is simple to understand.

An organization may be thought of as having a number of simple, basic characteristics. It is a node in a network of exchange relationships upon which people have come to rely, and to which they have given an identity to better keep it in operation. As such, it has become an actor in its own right, whose actions are the organized product of its participants’ various contributions (Katz and Kahn, 1978; Blau, 1964). Understood in this way, we can see that an organization forms a component of the overall pattern of exchange, within which it gains the support of its environment, permitting it to remain a viable entity.

What keeps this network functioning in more than the minimal way that external controls could guarantee is the experience of obligation (Schwartz, 1983). An individual agrees to perform certain activities, called a job, for a payment, which is ultimately offered by others who gain something from the performance of that job and are therefore willing to give something to have somebody do it. Having taken the pay, or in anticipation thereof, the individual agrees that he has a moral obligation to fulfill his part of the bargain by doing the work that the job involves. We recognize this every time we refer to the behaviors that are part of a job as “responsibilities.” We also understand that some work will be worth more than other work in the exchange process, and should therefore should be more highly compensated. We call the attainment of this balance “equity,” (Adams, 1963) which again reveals its moral connotation. When work is worth more than other work, we say that it has more merit.

Organization and morality are evidently linked at a very basic and fundamental level. For example, Nietzsche (2000), reasoning from the etymological identity of guilt (schuld) and debts (schulden) argues this:

the feeling of guilt, of personal obligation, had its origin, as we saw, in the oldest and most primitive personal relationship, that between buyer and seller, creditor and debtor: it was here that one person first encountered another person, that one person first measured himself against another. No grade of civilization, however low, has yet been discovered in which something like this relationship has not been noticeable. Setting prices, determining values, contriving equivalences, exchanging – these preoccupied the earliest thinking of man to so great an extent that in a certain sense they constitute thinking as such.

If we understand organization in this way, we can see that the alternative moralization of the organization under the aegis of political correctness, centering around the concept of diversity, creates the potential for a conflict between these two moral foundations.

A potential for moral conflict does not have to be actualized. Two moral principles can coexist. Their claims can be weighed in relation to one another. In given circumstances, one may be taken as prevailing over the other; as governing when there is a conflict (Feldman, 2003). In this way, for example, the morality of friendship is subordinated to the morality of justice when one is required to testify against a friend in a criminal case, and this is accomplished without denying that loyalty toward friends is a moral virtue under other circumstances.

But if we see the operation of political correctness in support of the concept of diversity, we can see that there will be a problem here. The morality of diversity cannot be weighed against the morality of exchange because moral claims asserted against diversity are politically incorrect. This has the effect of making the moral claim of diversity absolute and not relative. Where there is a clash, exchange will always lose since it cannot be used as a justification. But if exchange is the very heart of the organization, then the stage is set for a moral conflict in which the organization itself comes under moral attack; in which the destruction of the organization comes to be seen as a moral project. The dearest cost of diversity, then, is the force behind it and the psychological processes of which they are part.

What is political correctness and how can it happen that it stands opposed to the concept of exchange? In thinking about political correctness, it is appropriate to consider the nature of the politics in terms of which an idea is considered correct or not. For this purpose, I find it useful to define it in the terms through which it first became a part of common discourse. This was in an article by New York Times reporter Richard Bernstein (1991). He said that:

Central to pc-ness, which has its roots in 1960's radicalism, is the view that Western society has for centuries been dominated by what is often called 'the white male power structure' or 'Patriarchal hegemony.' A related belief is that everybody but white heterosexual males has suffered some form of repression and been denied a cultural voice ... more than an earnest expression of belief, "politically correct" has become a sarcastic jibe used by those, conservatives and classical liberals alike, to describe what they see as a growing intolerance, a closing of debate, a pressure to conform to a radical program or risk being accused of a commonly reiterated trio of thought crimes: sexism, racism and homophobia. (Section 4: pp.1,4)

What is brought forward from its radical origins is the idea that the last shall be first and the first last, not in the next world, as Jesus predicted in the Sermon on the Mount, but in this one.

Schwartz (1997, 2003) has offered a psychoanalytic theory of PC, which permits the derivation of this principle. According to this view, political correctness may be seen as a system of organizational governance. It represents a shift from the “biparental” organization, in which both maternal and paternal influences have their place, to a form based on an idealized mother, from which the paternal influences have been expelled.  But paternal influence, in the organization as in the family, is based upon engagement with indifferent reality (Chasseguet-Smirgel, 1986), in which people relate to each other not through feeling but through mutual use, according to the rules of exchange. Such engagement is the venue for differences in merit, which are properly reflected in the organization’s rewards, including increased standing, which in turn is balanced by an acceptance of higher levels of responsibility and obligation.

Maternal influence is expressed through love, which, among other things, adds emotional bonds to the exchange processes that connect organizational participants. Throwing out paternal influences, though, means that the work of engaging reality must be denigrated. It means denying the importance of exchange, and cuts out the idea of merit and its use as the basis for reward. When this happens, differences in rewards that have occurred in the past are not seen as coming from differential contribution, as resulting from merit, but as arising from an unfair practice in which those who have done well have essentially stolen their rewards from those who have not done well. The maternal process comes to be a matter, then, of rewarding and loving the members of those groups who have done badly in the past, and hating and depriving those who previously have done well, specifically the white, heterosexual males. The last, in other words, shall be first, and the first last.

This moral project, whose dictates concerning loving and hating are the core of political correctness, is fundamentally opposed to the morality of exchange. From within its context the very idea of merit becomes part of the ideology of oppression and a smokescreen through which some have taken from others what was rightfully theirs.

Nowhere is the morality of exchange and merit more visible and central than in the area of work motivation. Because of its importance in the process of motivation, a moralized attack upon exchange will be an attack against the moral basis of work motivation. This means that those who assert that there is a mutual obligation between employees and organizations, in the sense that an individual feels entitled to be paid in accordance with his work, may be condemned as being immoral for making that claim.


An attack upon work motivation at the Ford Motor Company

If journalistic accounts are to be believed, exactly that bizarre dynamic came into play not long ago at the Ford Motor Company, as illustrated by several lawsuits filed by employees. In some of these suits, white male employees charged that a forced-choice employee evaluation system was being used, not as a measurement of merit, but as a subterfuge to discharge white male employees, particularly older ones, thereby making room for diversity candidates:

 The forced ranking system has stoked the already simmering angst over Ford's aggressive push to diversify its workforce and fast-track talented young leaders.

 Ford has set specific goals for hiring and promoting minorities and women and tied executive compensation to meeting those objectives.

 James Fett, a Pinckney lawyer representing Ford employees, said these dictates leave supervisors with little choice but to choose older white males as the C performers.

 "There is a quota system pure and simple," Fett said.

Fett named [Ford CEO Jacques] Nasser in his suit and plans to use internal Ford documents outlining diversity goals and the CEO's own words against him in court. Nasser, a Lebanese-born Australian, has been candid in saying Ford's workforce lacks diversity.

"I do not like the sea of white faces in the audience and Ford Motor Co. must ensure that in the future the company reflects the broad spectrum of Ford's customers," Nasser said in an address last year to top executives that was videotaped and subsequently used for diversity training. (Truby, 2001a).

But the suit most directly related to our issue was one filed by a former employee named John H. Kovacs, who claimed that he was the victim of a company-wide practice of reverse discrimination, undertaken to meet aggressive quotas for hiring and promoting women and minorities.

An article in the Detroit News Truby (2001b) described the matter this way:

Born in southwest Detroit on Bagley Avenue, the street where Henry Ford started Ford Motor Co. nearly a century ago, Kovacs said he developed an abiding love for the company as a young man.

 Kovacs accepted a human resources position with Ford in 1992 immediately after completing his master's degree in labor and industrial relations at Michigan State University.

At Ford Credit, Kovacs was earning about $100,000 a year and handling human resources duties for three of the automaker's vice-presidents. But he said he became increasingly disillusioned by what he perceived as blatant discriminatory hiring and promoting practices.

 He claims he was passed over for promotions while less qualified women and minorities advanced quickly to upper management.

On March 13, Kovacs, through his attorney, wrote a detailed letter to Ford Chairman William Clay Ford Jr. complaining that the automaker was illegally discriminating against white men. But instead of receiving a response from Bill Ford, he was abruptly suspended with pay in early April.

As the News put it:

Ford has had a policy of promoting a diverse workforce for several years -- both as a business strategy and an effort to provide equal opportunity to all classes of people. But the company steadfastly denies that it makes hiring decisions on the basis of race, age and gender.

  Kovacs says that's exactly what the automaker does. According to him, women and minorities are routinely promoted or hired over more qualified white men.

What made Kovacs case particularly strong, compared to other reverse discrimination cases, is that he had internal company documents, which he acquired in the course of his work in Human Resources, to back up his case:

As a human resources manager, John H. Kovacs, 36, was the ultimate insider, a man privy to the most sensitive personnel matters at Ford Motor Co.'s financial services arm.

 He kept minutes at meetings where key hirings and promotions were meted out, and where executives wrestled with how to diversify their management teams…

He points to Ford Credit documents, filed with the federal suit, referring to job openings that state "diversity candidate preferred" or "female candidate preferred."

  Kovacs says the documents also show that Ford Credit employees chosen as candidates for "stretch" promotions -- where the candidate needs some mentoring and assistance to handle a new post -- were exclusively women and minorities.

The lawsuit includes copies of several lists of stretch candidates that list employees' race or gender.

The article in the News continued:

The breaking point, Kovacs said, came in November when a high-ranking human resources official at Ford Credit announced at a meeting that no white men could be hired or promoted at management levels for the rest of the year.

 "There was a gasp that went up," Kovacs said. "The white males in the room just looked at each other."

 According to minutes from the Nov. 13 meeting included in the suit, Ford Credit undertook the steps to meet diversity goals.

"Actions include delaying the hiring, promotion and referral of white males unless there is a good business case to bring them in by year end," the minutes say. "Actions also include the pulling ahead of any promotion, upgrades, referral etc. of non-white" candidates.

 Kovacs' original suit in federal court, which was withdrawn and refiled in Wayne Circuit court, contained a sheaf of internal Ford documents that include meeting minutes, e-mails, and lists of internal candidates for job promotions. Kovacs said he has collected many more internal documents that were not included in the filing but could eventually be aired in court.

What adds much to Kovacs’ credibility is that Ford’s defense strategy did not dispute the authenticity of the documents or otherwise deny the allegations. In other words, they seemed to concede the validity of these claims. Their strategy was not based on refuting his facts, but in attacking him for bringing them to light:

As Kovacs' accusations and internal documents came to light last week, the automaker went on the offensive -- in the courtroom and in the media.

Ford attorneys, raising questions about Kovacs' credibility, said Kovacs improperly removed personnel records from company premises.

"They are starting to throw mud at me and take shots at me because I have struck a nerve," Kovacs said.

 "My name is mud. My career's over in H.R.”

Ford’s charge that Kovacs “improper removal” of the documents is critically important. It makes no sense to accuse someone of taking documents unless they are real documents. Kovacs continued:

“[T]his case is not my word against Ford's. It's Ford Motor's word against (the company's) own e-mails, Ford Motor's words against its own meeting minutes and Ford Motor's words against its own internal planning documents."


Ford evidently believed it could win with this strategy:

With Ford turning up the heat, Kovacs and his firebrand attorney, James Fett, face an uphill battle. Reverse discrimination cases are notoriously difficult to prove. And Ford commands a deep and veteran legal team and the resources to battle a lawsuit for years.

"Ford's best hope is to make it so miserable for this guy that he goes away or he settles," said Ken Kovach, a professor of industrial relations at George Mason University.

From our point of view the important issue is not the legal one, but the motivational one. Here, as Ford tacitly admitted, a policy was in place that denied promotion to some of its employees in order to increase the number of other people in its ranks even though they were less qualified. In other words, the work that people like Kovacs did was not rewarded as a matter of policy. What made the matter even worse was that their claim to compensation for their work marked them as standing in the way of progress and against the company:

Ironically, the push for inclusiveness has some feeling forgotten.

“We are in the middle of transforming one of the biggest companies in the world,” [David] Murphy [Ford’s human resources vice-president] said. “You aren’t going to do that by pleasing everybody, by having some kind of consensus. We know we are going to upset some people. Maybe they shouldn’t be a part of Ford Motor Co.” (Truby, 2000)

Most important, for our purposes, is that they were attacked as being immoral. We can see this from the fact that Ford took on this lawsuit as a moral crusade. Thus:

During the hearing, Ford attorney Norman Lippitt gave notice that Ford plans to vigorously defend itself against the discrimination claims.

 "I cannot wait to try this case," Lippitt said. "I'm proud to be on the right side of this issue."

 Lippitt said Ford is committed to providing minorities and women equal opportunity at all levels of the workforce and won't be dissuaded by disgruntled employees or opportunistic attorneys. (Truby, 2001b)

It is difficult to see how Ford could pursue this strategy of defending itself through the moral condemnation of those who were making a claim to have their work compensated, except by denigrating the worth of those individuals and the work upon which they based their claim. Their good work, which previously counted as their claim to reward, came to be the subject of vilification in direct proportion to the value they placed on it by claiming the right to be compensated. The system of motivation had been turned upside down.

What we see in this case is a very good example of our general proposition. Within the politically correct organization, the meaning of exchange is lost. In its place arises a simple morality play, within which those who successfully pursued greater reward through work are seen as having stolen their standing from those who have had less status. Moreover, as can be seen by the fact that their claims are so easily dismissed, this is all they are seen as having done. The psychological basis of the work which they have done for the organization is now supposed to be a measure of their guilt. Under the circumstances, it is not surprising that the organization would undertake to deal with them in a way that would undermine their motivation.

One place where this demotivation and disengagement would show up would be in the quality of the product, since, as quality gurus like Deming, Juran and Crosby agree, quality requires engagement and commitment. In fact, the quality of Ford vehicles dropped precipitously. In a “town-hall meeting,” held in late September, 2001, Nick Scheele, recently promoted to head of Ford’s North American operations, offered a “frank assessment of Ford’s vehicle quality:

The company has been plagued by recalls and poor launches in the past year and has seen its quality ratings drop.

“Our quality is not going in the right direction and everybody knows it,” he said.

Toyota has increased its quality lead over Ford. And GM and Chrysler have taken significant leads over Ford in key quality areas, Scheele said. (Truby, 2001c)

To be sure, it was not the demotivation caused by the diversity campaign that was the only cause of this: 

In trying to effect a cultural revolution at the tradition-bound company, Ford in recent years has launched a series of e-commerce ventures, leadership training initiatives and get-tough employee evaluation programs. It also diversified into a series of related business…

“Now let’s be honest,” Scheele  said. “Some of the actions that we’ve taken in the past few years maybe distracted us and contributed to a deterioration in quality.” (Truby: 2001c)


Still, subsequent events indicated that the deterioration in employee engagement had its effect. On October 29, 2001, Chairman Jacques Nasser, the individual most closely associated with Ford’s diversity program, as well as the other elements of its attempted makeover, was fired. The connection with the diversity program was often explicit:

Nasser was often a divisive figure among Ford employees, who felt that some of his initiatives – such as a forced evaluation system and efforts to promote diversity – created tension in the workplace.

While some Ford employees on Tuesday said Nasser wasn’t responsible for all their problems, they said he contributed enough that it was time for him to go. (Donnelly, 2001)

And the effects of the forced-choice system, which as I have said was seen as a smokescreen for discrimination against white males, especially older ones, were given special recognition: 

The policy spawned a slew of workplace discrimination lawsuits, mostly filed by veteran white male workers, but more importantly devastated morale…

Nasser scrapped the policy this summer, but the damage was done.

“He lost the employees,” said David Cole, director for the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor. (Truby, 2001d)

Coming under the leadership of William Ford, Jr. the company settled the suits, including Kovacs’. But considerable damage had already been done. My argument has been that much of this damage must be attributed to the dynamics underlying political correctness.


Having reached the end, we can now answer the questions posed in the beginning. There is no empirical evidence of the value of diversity, yet organizations embrace it wholeheartedly and enthusiastically. At the same time, they show little interest in finding out whether the claims for the value of diversity are true. We wanted to know what to make of this.

I believe what we are to make of this is that organizations do not embrace diversity out of a belief in its value, but because they fear the moral condemnation that goes with being politically incorrect. That is why, in the first instance, they show no interest in finding out whether the claims for diversity are defensible. The actual value of diversity, from a business perspective, is not relevant to the reason why they have embraced it.

Over and above that, though, I think there is another reason why they do not show interest in finding out whether the diversity claims are true or not. It is that they need the claim of diversity’s value in order to keep the clash between the two moralities from appearing. As long as the pretense can be maintained, however spuriously, that diversity adds value, the agenda that is actually driving diversity will not become an issue and its contradiction with the exchange morality that makes the organization function will go unrecognized. 

Yet recognized or not, it is a social fact and a dangerous one at that.

As we saw, the moral program of political correctness means that the last should be first and the first last. But taking that as a moral norm means undermining any justification why the last are last and the first are first, and reversing whatever processes have resulted in this arrangement.

What needs to be recognized is that if a relationship has existed between the rewards an organization has administered and the contributions an individual has made, even if the relationship is not perfect, that provides a good reason why the first have been first and the last last. Yet under the regime of political correctness, this reason is not recognized as legitimate. It is seen as immoral in its own right and is regarded as having created an arrangement for which the organization must provide compensation. Indeed, it is seen as providing a model that the organization must reverse, so that a similar differentiation does not arise in the future.

This would, I believe, do nothing less than put organizations in the business of destroying themselves (Schwartz, 2002). The key to understanding how this could happen is the observation that political correctness, not recognizing the value of exchange, has no grounds for seeing the value of organization at all. In fact, it sees itself as representing a higher morality in which an organization figures only as a stage for the performance of the morality play. Whether the organization continues to exist is a matter of little concern.

Managers, employees, investors, their families, and all members of society that have a stake in economic activity have good reason to question whether this nonchalance serves their interest.


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[1] In this essay, I am using the term “diversity” in the way it is used in the social programs of our time. In that sense, it refers to the representation of certain groups defined by their historical victimization. Differences in ideas that do not correspond to the moral status of different groups have not been an issue for these projects and they are not an issue in the present work.


[2] The same conclusion must be reached regarding the value of diversity in education, which the University of Michigan claimed to establish in its recent cases before the Supreme Court on the use of racial preferences in admissions. Wood and Sherman (2001) and Lerner and Nagai (2001) have shown the UM case to be without merit, as a result of the most egregious methodological errors.


[3] In saying this, I do not mean to include those programs that increase outreach to selected groups, or for that matter give a slight advantage to members of those groups whose qualifications are substantially equivalent to candidates from non-selected groups. These are matters that have never been controversial and whose costs are relatively small.


[4] To be sure, much of this consists of the costs of dealing with regulation. But these costs must be borne by businesses whatever their origin, and businesses are also political actors who can have an affect on the costs with which governmental action burdens them