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Since I live in America i'll make an example using that. People nowadays (2023 as I write this) say that our government will get increasingly more diverse, which will lead to more issues and points-of-views to consider when trying to come up with a solution, as well as more people "finding a problem" with the proposed solution. I've heard a handful of people say this is why there shouldn't be "diversity" in our governments. Is this a valid argument, and if so what is a valid counter-argument for this claim?

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    Diversity is such a generic term that it's meaningless in this context. Commented Feb 11, 2023 at 21:19
  • 14
    It is impossible to counterargue "too much" in general, the devil is always in how much is "too much". This "argument" can be used by anybody to argue their favorite bright line of "just enough" diversity. Depending on context, there can be something to it, or it can be a pretext for shutting out opponents. Substantive counterarguments entirely depend on what the context is.
    – Conifold
    Commented Feb 11, 2023 at 23:11
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    If a country's population is diverse, then one is either a democrat and believes the government should represent the population, or an oligocrat who thinks a minority should impose its will. I don't think the people who gave you this argument realize the disservice they make to themselves by overtly siding with the latter. At the very least, ask them to clearly take position on this point.
    – armand
    Commented Feb 12, 2023 at 7:41
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    There's a huge difference between "there shouldn't be 'diversity' in our governments" (which I've never heard anyone in America claim) and variations on "increasing diversity in government should not be an objective in its own right", which I could believe some people might assert. I'd argue that the former is pretty much a straw man. Commented Feb 12, 2023 at 17:29
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    There's a terminology problem here, because in our current political climate, the term "diverse" is sometimes misused so it doesn't mean a group containing a wide variety of people from different backgrounds, but can instead refer to a highly homogenous group of people from a minority background. You need to read carefully, between the lines, to see what is actually intended by the term. Commented Feb 14, 2023 at 9:55

13 Answers 13

22

Sigh...

The notion of 'diversity' only makes sense from an ethno-nationalist perspective of mono-ethnicity. Sure, if everyone is just like the collective 'me' governmental problems decrease dramatically. But that doesn't make government 'better'; it merely makes government 'easier'. Arguably, government is 'better' when there is more diversity, because more diversity mean more deliberation, more reflection, and more mutual accommodation.

Everyone wants what they want; that's a given. The question is whether some people get a lot of what they want while others suffer, or whether everyone gets something of what they want. It's not a zero-sum game (as some people like to frame it), but there is a give and take. Some people just don't want to give anything.

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    "Sure, if everyone is just like the collective 'me' governmental problems decrease dramatically." - is this true? Monoethnic governments in the US and elsewhere have not been free of internal strife, deadlock, etc. History clearly shows that people have an endless capacity to disagree with each other regardless of their similarities or differences. Commented Feb 12, 2023 at 13:42
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    @ToddWilcox: It's a generally accepted theory in political science. Usually PoliSci people point at ethnically and culturally homogenous political regions (Switzerland, Nordic Countries, Japan, smallish non-diverse communities) and note that while they have individual discord between political actors, they tend to lack group discord. Individual discord is addressed within a realm of common cultural and social values; group discord is alienating and intractable. Not to say that homogenous cultures are better politically; just that they find consensus easier. Commented Feb 12, 2023 at 14:24
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    @ToddWilcox: it's culturally homogenous with respect to something like the US, but if you don't like that example, ignore it. This isn't math. Commented Feb 12, 2023 at 15:47
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    Switzerland is culturally homogenous? It has four official languages and is split between Catholic and Protestant. There's also a heavy rural/urban divide which is reflected in politics. I'd say Switzerland is able to find accord because it's important to them despite their differences, not because they're all the same, because they're not. Commented Feb 13, 2023 at 13:34
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    @DavidStanley: That's called 'political culture' — a broad group acceptance of given political norms, standards, and institutions — and can (ideally) provide homogeneity in multi-cultural contexts. But I'm really not interested in arguing details as opposed to theory/ Commented Feb 14, 2023 at 6:01
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The counter argument is that a more diverse government is more representative. If your prime objective is to streamline decision making, then replace the elected government with a dictatorship so that a single person can make all the decisions.

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    i don't think he said a single person do, he said several, but not lots. Commented Feb 11, 2023 at 21:09
  • The term would be oligocracy, a system where only a few have access to government (the nobles, the old, the rich, a certain gender or profession), which is still a form of tyranny. your objection is the good one.
    – armand
    Commented Feb 12, 2023 at 7:43
  • Does not follow. If representativity would be important, then, each government should have at least one member with cancer, one with a respiratory disease, one with diabetes, one with depression, one with OCD. Moreover, a "representative" president should have the most extended problems in society (e.g. a poor sick man).
    – RodolfoAP
    Commented Feb 13, 2023 at 7:31
  • @RodolfoAP you are wrong. What I say does follow. Increasing the degree of representivity can be beneficial, even though it is impossible- as you point out- to make it complete in any sense. Commented Feb 13, 2023 at 9:00
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    @RodolfoAP Having people in the government with cancer, respiratory disease, diabetes, etc, is an excellent idea. The government makes policies that affect these people. Why should they be excluded from the process?
    – Daniel B
    Commented Feb 13, 2023 at 19:58
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No.

When does it make sense to talk about arguments / counter arguments? In a discussion with clearly defined terms. "Diversity" is an ideological propaganda term, and basic logic does not apply to it because it is vague, contradictory and irrational by it's very nature. It leads to infinite discussions where both sides can be correct, and that is the case with all ideological terms.

To give you an example, I speak russian, and since the war began in Ukraine in 2022 I have heard many stupid people saying that all russian books should be burnt, that all russian movies should be deleted from youtube and russians are nazi evil incarnate. Does it make sense to provide a counter argument to that? No, because logic does not apply in this case at all, either you tell those individuals that their minds are poisoned by propaganda, or you don't engage in a discussion at all, otherwise you get in an infinite exhausting argument.

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    This is the only acceptable answer. Democracy is the ability to administrate ourselves, but that does not imply selecting the administrators based on quotas (e.g. we have three positions, then, let's put one man, one woman and one gay). Administration is selected over merits for the position, not over quotas within the whole.
    – RodolfoAP
    Commented Feb 13, 2023 at 11:30
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    @RodolfoAP Quotas can be useful as a tool to oppose a systematic bias, but there are loads of factors a policy-maker would have to take into consideration to determine where and whether that's appropriate. Things go wrong when people mistake means for ends.
    – wizzwizz4
    Commented Feb 13, 2023 at 18:04
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Well, if you're looking for a philosophical argument, then if you naturalize your epistemology, you can rely on scientific research, particularly in organizational psychology or sociology. Contemporary research, as I've seen it, generally supports diversity because it counter groupthink. There's a body of work stemming from Solomon Asch's work in social psychology that essentially establishes that people feel a psychological pressure to conform. Adding diversity to a team tends to counter that by mixing people with a diversity of perspectives, and if managed correctly, a good manager essentially creates an environment where candid argumentation (as in argumentation theory as rhetoric understands it) leads to a better informed, better reasoned decision making philosophy. One such example is Recent Research on Team and Organizational Diversity: SWOT Analysis and Implications from the Journal of Management. If social and organizational psychologists and managerial scientists are to be trusted, diversity can add value to an organization. Of course, one can also consider other philosophical lines of argumentation besides an appeal to science, such as an exploration of diversity from an ethical perspective. In philosophy, conversations can be had under the term pluralism instead of diversity. For instance, ecumenical movements in religions fall under the auspices of inquiry into religious diversity (SEP).

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    "supports diversity" = scientists agreeing with nature. How smart is that? Don't think diversity is only about LGBT hotdogs, social or cultural groups. It means all types of diversity.
    – RodolfoAP
    Commented Feb 13, 2023 at 7:37
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People nowadays say that our government will get increasingly more diverse, which will lead to more issues and points-of-views to consider when trying to come up with a solution, as well as more people "finding a problem" with the proposed solution.

One big problem with this claim is in the notion of 'diversity' and how it might be defined.

Let's pretend for a moment that this claim is somehow true. It would nonetheless be fallacious to suggest (for example) that a more ethnically diverse government would necessarily possess a greater diversity of political views that a less ethnically diverse government. It might seem more likely, but the differences normally expected to be present in an ethnically diverse group might be countered by the similarities of those drawn to a career in politics, amongst other factors. An entirely hispanic government, for example, could feasibly possess a more diverse range of views than a government populated by a group from a range of sexual/gender orientations, and socioeconomic, educational, linguistic and ethnic backgrounds. Diversity of origin does not necessarily equate to diversity of opinion on a range of policies.

If diversity is undesirable for the reason provided in your example, it is undesirable not because of the diversity of backgrounds, but because of some kind of problem inherent in diversity itself, such as the increased 'wastage' of time and money which tend to occur in diverse democracies which value discussion and representation above efficiency. By this logic, a senatorship or congress comprised entirely of white men would be just as problematic as any other ethnic composition if it possessed a similar diversity of views.

A claim as reductive as, 'the less diversity the better' essentially distils to a claim that there is one true perspective according to which we should all align, and that anyone possessed of different opinion should be excluded. This leads to totalitarianism/dictatorship. And even if totalitarianism and dictatorship are deemed desirable for some reason, who is the dictator possessed of the right information? How has this been determined? How far do we follow such a person or group? Do we repeat the mistakes of the past? Or would they not be deemed mistakes at all?

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    Apparently even "a senatorship or congress comprised entirely of white men" (almost) can deadlock when a few of them have differing views.
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented Feb 12, 2023 at 11:48
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A letter to The Economist in 2016 states that diversity has utility, but the mechanism by which it works is counter-intuitive:

It is true: diversity undermines trust (Schumpeter, February 13th). But this may be its greatest gift. When ethnically different others are present, people tend to remain cautious, scrutinise information and reach better decisions. Our research, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, showed that ethnically diverse markets are significantly less likely to bubble compared with homogenous ones. The results held for North America and South-East Asia, notwithstanding the differences in culture, history and ethnic composition.

In homogenous markets, we reason, trust in other people’s reasonableness can cause erroneous beliefs to spread more readily. Diversity makes you better precisely because it makes you less trusting.

PROFESSOR SHEEN LEVINE
The University of Texas, Dallas

4

There are theorems concerning the "wisdom of the crowd" and decisions based on majority that clearly demonstrate that it is more probable to arrive at the truth of the matter or a correct decision when more are involved in the process (1,2).

A basic assumption of these probability theorems is that the agents involved are independent, have formed independent opinion via independent routes (2). That is, they are diverse and not simply reiterate and duplicate the same opinion.

This is a counter-argument for diversity with both strong theoretical foundations and empirical research supporting it (3).

Maybe diversity does not make government easier, but it can in fact make it better on average.

References:

  1. Jury theorem
  2. Condorcet's jury theorem
  3. The Asch effect: when being in a group can lead to bad decisions
3

If someone claims that "too much" diversity is a problem, you could try asking two questions: is "too little" diversity a problem? is there a goldilocks zone for diversity?

1

Democracy is rule by the people. The most pure form of this direct democracy but this is only practical for small polities as it is otherwise unwieldly.

This is the motivation behind representative democracy where a delegate represents a constituency. But such a polity is not representative if all viewpoints in the polity are not represented. And thus we are lead to proportional voting system.

Now what you are asking about is whether diversity can be a problem. This is not usually a problem as having diverse opinions means that the best of many can be selected. What is a problem is when there is polarisation of opinions and especially when they become incommensurable throughtout the polity. If this isn't resolved politically, then this usually leads to civil war. For example, the American Civil War over slavery or the English Civil War over the sovereignty of parliament.

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Too Much Love Will Kill You

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Too much of anything is bad. That's what makes it too much and not enough or a lot.

Saying too much diversity is bad is true by definition. Too much sunlight is bad. Too much exercise is bad. Too much money is bad. Too much salad is bad for you. Too much love will kill you. Every time.

There is no argument to be made here. The argument is over how much is too much. Likely you will disagree over this point.

Have the person explain how much is too much. Should 20% of the senators in America be Native American? Is that too much? Why is it too much? What problems does it cause?

0

It depends on whether you consider compromise a problem.

In a diverse government with many, many different opinions, chances are that for every piece of legislation passed, nobody is going to be perfectly happy with it. However, chances are that not many of them are going to be totally against it either. All of this is because for legislation to pass in that environment, compromise is forced. Personally, I think compromise is a good thing and that the optimal solution to problems often (albeit not always) lies in the centre-ground.

In a two-party system where there are essentially two mostly homogonous blocks of opinion, you end up with a winner takes all scenario. The majority party can force through whatever extreme legislation they want and there's little the other party can do about it. This results in a situation where roughly half the country is always very unhappy with legislation passed. This also has the knock-on effect that when power changes hand, there's more instability as a lot of legislation is repealed cyclically.

0

This is philosophy not politics. The counter-argument exists: Government is no place for affirmative action.

The actual thing is both sides of the argument are wrong in extreme; both too much and too little diversity are problems.

Too much diversity is a problem because it leads to some rather bad gridlock. Witness how for years in Israel the government only functioned because of an alliance between the two major parties; else no party could do anything at all. The alliance between the two major parties kinda worked but was very unstable; but in the times when the alliance didn't even form a majority, two or three tiny parties gained outsized power.

Too little diversity is a problem because while not every extreme needs to be covered; most of the political scope of ideas needs to be covered in political debate and furthermore you need enough diversity to prevent one ethnic group from trampling upon another. I give you an old Arab quote: I against my brother. I and my brother against my uncle. I and my brother and my uncle against the world. The tyranny of the majority is still tyranny. The majority must be held at bay by some means to keep them from trampling over the minority groups.

It is a tricky problem indeed.

-1

Retail salespersons, cashiers, and general office clerks are the largest occupational group in the US (BLS 2021). So, following the proposed logic, they should have a high representativity in the national administration. Then, where in the government should you put all those cashiers? Should the president be a cashier? This is exactly what happens when we say where in the structure can we put this (some-person-which-is-not-the-typical-guy-behind-a-desk)?

Selecting the members of an administration by means of diversity in the group is a simple ad auctoritatem fallacy. Position are filled over technical qualifications, not over biological or innate attributes. Selecting a man for a position only because of its gender is equivalent to say "what we need to fill this position of Technical Agronomy Developer is not a human female". When positions are filled based on quotas, the same fallacy occurs (for example, to fill four positions with two big guys and two small guys).

Administrations perform better when the members are qualified for their positions, when they are selected over meritocracy. If not, quality simply decreases. Commercial organizations know this very well, and positions are normally filled based on requirements, not over quotas. Governments don't have problem using quotas because there is no performance tracking, like in a commercial organization. If performance is bad, nobody measures it, and it can't be compared with what would happened if a qualified technician would have occupied the position.

If members of an administration are selected over arbitrary* quotas within the population instead over capabilities, the quality of such administration decreases. That is what means "too much diversity can't be controlled" in the present case. The political agenda has taken profit of this fallacy and has introduced rules that corrupt the quality of administrations.

No counterargument is proposed, though. The quote is somehow correct, but the problem goes way deeper, up to a logical consistency issue in the foundations of the discussion about how to configure an administration.

* Arbitrary because wouldn't be more representative selecting over wealth? Education level? Health issues? Philosophical views? A really representative president for the USA should have one chronic illness (51.8% of US adults has at least 1 chronic disease), earn less than 70k US$(2018), do some job at home (BLS 2021), be woman (majority as of 2021) and come from California (majority, 2023).

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