by Conor Clarke
If a diverse array of justices is desirable, should we not be concerned that if you are confirmed, six out of the nine justices will be Roman Catholics, or is it somehow wrong to start paying attention to the extreme overrepresentation of Catholicism on the court at the moment when we have our first Hispanic nominee?
Andrew Gelman responds by observing that Catholicism has been historically underrepresented on the Court: "We've had 12 Catholics, 7 Jews, 1 unaffiliated, and 89 Protestants" in the Court's history. (The single unaffiliated justice -- in case you're wondering, as I was -- is David Davis, who was also Lincoln's campaign manager.) But while Gelman's data is interesting, and while I love interesting data, I also think it somewhat misses the point of Althouse's question. As I understand it, her point isn't "let's get rid of the damn Catholics." The point of the question is: "Why do we treat racial diversity as different -- and potentially more desirable -- than other kinds of diversity?" So, why do we?
A good angle into the question might be to think about two different ways you could justify an affirmative action program. One argument would be that affirmative action is needed to correct a lack of opportunity: You might say (indeed, I would say) that certain groups face historic disadvantages that are worth correcting. A second and distinct justification would be that diversity creates social benefits. The usual argument is that diverse classrooms have better discussions, and a diverse officer corps runs a better military, and a diverse business force helps navigate that cliche of an "increasingly globalized world."