The Double Injustice of "Ban the Box"

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Image via Pixabay.
A column at The Balance Careers attempts to help businessmen navigate the hiring process in certain states and cities with "Ban the Box" laws. These laws interfere with how a businessman screens potential employees by making it illegal to ask about criminal history on a job application. It remains legal to weigh a criminal record when making the actual hiring decision, but it says something that a human resources expert is offering guidance on navigating such a situation. Not only do these laws force employers to consider people they could otherwise reject quickly, they can cause legal difficulties. Furthermore, employers who wish to help ex-criminals are free to consider applicants with criminal records or even seek them out, as does Edwin's, a restaurant in Cleveland.

But, as hucksters are fond of saying, that's not all. Get a load of this:
[T]he other reason for ban-the-box laws is to stop discrimination against black men. However, research has shown that this may not be working as desired -- since employers can't ask about criminal history, they are less likely to interview black and Hispanic candidates.

Researchers looked at low-skilled men between the ages of 25 to 34 and determined that "in ban-the-box areas... employers are less likely to interview young, low-skilled black men because those groups are more likely to include ex-offenders. They instead focus on hiring groups made up of men they believe are less likely to have gone to prison."

So, while the laws may help actual convicts, they can adversely affect low-skilled black men who have no criminal history. [bold added, links removed]
So, not only are employers in "Ban the Box" locales hamstrung when it comes to screening out potential criminals, good men are being penalized for the crimes of others.

Although this law is not a quota law, it is motivated by the same species of injustice, one which Ayn Rand addressed eloquently years ago:
The quota doctrine assumes that all members of a given physiological group are identical and interchangeable -- not merely in the eyes of other people, but in their own eyes and minds. Assuming a total merging of the self with the group, the doctrine holds that it makes no difference to a man whether he or his "representative" is admitted to a school, gets a job, or makes a decision. ("Representation Without Authorization," in The Ayn Rand Letter, I, 21, 2)
The wrongs of racial bigotry are committed against individual human beings, by denying them justice -- on the basis of physical characteristics beyond their control. Giving a man compensation -- on the basis of the same characteristics -- is merely to commit another injustice, as we see here. Both "Ban the Box" laws and government quota systems are born of this same error, and thus have no more place in a free society than Jim Crow laws.

-- CAV


Blair said...

Hello Gus, it's been a long time. Great insight on this idiotic law. I can also see it being used by the Left to scream more about "white privilege." (Perhaps that's why it's being implemented?) Saying something like, "LOOK" even with these laws, employers aren't hiring minorities!" Of course, conservatives will become/remain mute, as they never have defended capitalism or business, anyway.

Gus Van Horn said...


This outcome will doubtless excuse accusations of racism, but it's interesting to consider the fact that this outcome resembles that of raising the minimum wage, which also results in lower black employment. That was predicted decades ago (and factored into early support for minimum wage laws by southern Democrats), and it happens every time. But the left keeps calling for it.