We’re Compensating You for That Face
September 01, 2011
Readers may recall the comical Marxist Bea Campbell and her urge to see the population being enlisted by an egalitarian state, in which “emancipating governance” would be based, rather curiously, on greater state control. Ms Campbell’s other convictions include a belief that Erich Honecker was more “progressive” than David Cameron, and that families and civil society are, everywhere, “riven by power, patriarchy, conflict and the unequal distribution of resources and respect.” To which, less than seriously, I added:
It isn’t clear how one might ensure that “respect” is distributed in an egalitarian fashion. Perhaps the same approach could be applied to other inequities in life – fashion sense, talent or the possession of pleasing features.
Well. Here’s a lesson for us all. Don’t joke about these things.
Herb Deutsch steers us to the New York Times, where Professor Daniel S. Hamermesh has unearthed a shocking truth:
Being good-looking is useful in so many ways. In addition to whatever personal pleasure it gives you, being attractive also helps you earn more money, find a higher-earning spouse… and get better deals on mortgages.
Naturally, he asks:
How could we remedy this injustice?
A “radical solution” is proposed, albeit of a kind that crops up remarkably often:
Why not offer legal protections to the ugly, as we do with racial, ethnic and religious minorities, women and handicapped individuals? We actually already do offer such protections in a few places, including in some jurisdictions in California, and in the District of Columbia, where discriminatory treatment based on looks in hiring, promotions, housing and other areas is prohibited… We could even have affirmative-action programmes for the ugly.
Good luck marketing that. “Excuse me, madam. Has anyone told you that you bear a striking resemblance to a fire-damaged troll and may have special needs? Step this way…” Oh, come on. Who wouldn’t want to be regarded as officially ugly? Imagine the compensation claims by failed, overweight actors with dodgy teeth and leather-faced strippers with asymmetrical breasts. Perhaps we should all apply for a job as the new face of Cosmetics Company X, then cry discrimination and threaten law suits when politely shown the door. It could be a lucrative hustle. And what about the short, the overly tall, the inarticulate or the shy? Do we draw a line somewhere, or do we go on indefinitely, compensating all possible categories of human imperfection?
The mechanics of legislating this kind of protection are not as difficult as you might think… For purposes of administering a law, we surely could agree on who is truly ugly, perhaps the worst-looking 1 or 2 percent of the population.
Professor Hamermesh does, eventually, pause to consider possible downsides of fixing the human condition in ever more inventive, expensive and intrusive ways:
With increasingly tight limits on government resources, expanding rights to yet another protected group would reduce protection for groups that have commanded our legislative and other attention for over 50 years.
Well, maybe we could take a different approach, one more likely to satisfy advocates of aesthetic egalitarianism. Perhaps a system of corrective bruising, abrasion and facial clamps for anyone prettier than, say, me. Or would that be a little too on the nose?