"The Whims Of Chance"

Freddie DeBoer gets angry at me for linking to Charles Platt's Wal-Mart experiment. Many readers expressed similar sentiments:

Look: the fact that able, healthy, educated white men who were properly socialized by their families and guardians, who aren’t crippled by alcoholism or drug addiction and who don’t have to worry about supporting families on their minimum wages– the fact that they can survive these experiments does not impress me. It does not impress me.

I would dearly love these guys, or Andrew, to step into the body of a single black mother from Hartford with two children, no high school diploma, an alcohol addiction and no background of being properly parented. More importantly, these experiments are the worst kind of anecdotal evidence. If these guys put on their poor costumes and use their good old fashioned elbow grease and gumption and American determination to get ahead, it doesn’t really tell us much about the great sad mass of American poverty, does it? Hell, Platt himself says that he had a lot of competition for the job he got at Wal-Mart. What do you suppose happened to those people who didn’t get that job? Who didn’t have the benefit of his resume and his non-threatening white male persona? Or just look at the numbers, the percentage of Americans in poverty, and ask, how may of them truly are there because they aren’t hard working enough, because they don’t “want it” enough? Are we willing to dismiss so many so unsympathetically?