Thursday, September 02, 2010

Libertarian commentator John Stossel offers a new criticism against ADA; makes good point about "identity politics"

John Stossel is seen by some people as a provocative commentator (his “give me a break” column on ABC 20/20) from a libertarian perspective, but probably nothing like Newt Gingrich or even Sarah Palin.

Stossel has reissued one of his earlier arguments, that the Americans with Disabilities Act doesn’t actually help people with disabilities find jobs. The piece appears on p 38 Sept 2 in the conservative-leaning Washington Examiner; here is a copy online, “Good intentions gone bad”, link here.

His basic point is that the ADA tends to invite frivolous litigation, even “legal extortion” (Stossel talks about “professional litigants”), so employers are likely to look the other way on hiring people whom employers fear would sue them. (That really hasn’t been the case with race, however, very often, although occasionally there are unusual litigation incidents in the workplace today; I witinessed one in the 1990s.)

Stossel also argues that ADA requirements cause some small business owners to balk at spending money on needed renovations. He ends his essay with the use of the word “parasites”.

In information technology, I know of a case where an nearly “legally blind” technician was accommodated with a large terminal screen, and was the most productive employee on the team in resolving major technical support problems affecting customers. The individual also ran an ISP from home (he managed my web hosting for four years, with great stability).

Stossel has a point, however, when he talks about “identity politics”. Lazy thinking encourages people to perceive opposition to some statute purporting to help a particular class as dislike of the class of people itself. Here is his link at (“conservative”) Fox.

I recall a speech in 1996 at the Fairfax County government center by National Gay and Lesbian Task Force director Melinda Paras, about “fairness and compassion”. But the question is whether government can force it.

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