Picking up the civil war theme from the open thread. Sowell did a worldwide study of affirmative action.
The most destructive result of preference policies is the polarization of whole societies, as in Sir Lanka, Nigeria (with the attempted Ibo breakaway movement to form Biafra) and some Indian states. The Sri Lankan experience is especially instructive because at the time of independence the Tamil minority and the Sinhalese majority lived side by side in harmony despite their different religions and languages and despite the greater educational and commercial advancement of a section of the Tamils. The elites of both groups tended to be English speaking, mixed freely with each other and were committed to non-sectarian policies. All this changed with one demagogue, S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike. English-speaking, Christian and Oxford-educated, he became a champion of the Sinhalese language, Budhism and preferential treatment for Sinhalese. This resulted in an upset electoral victory for his party in 1956, followed by legislation to make Sinhalese the official language, restriction of the leading teacher-training college to Sinhalese only, and the first of many bloody race riots directed against the Tamils. The downward spiral continued as radical Sinhalese elements demanded stronger forms of preference and groups of Tamils launched a violent secession movement.
Prior to Sowell’s research, it appears that hardly anyone paid systematic attention to the gap between the rhetoric and the reality of preference policies. Nor had anybody noticed the depressing similarity in the pattern of events which Sowell records all around the world. Generally the demand for preferential policies comes from well educated, ‘new class’ members of supposedly disadvantaged groups. The same people also become the main beneficiaries of preference policies. These are the people who took Andrew Bolt to court.