Apple’s Tim Cook and his slightly surprising support for the Employment Nondiscrimination Act

“Tim Cook of Apple has called in the Wall Street Journal for Congress to just get on with it and pass the Employment Nondiscrimination Act,” Tim Worstall writes for Forbes. “The language of the letter suggests (he uses ‘we’ but he is the only signatory) that this is Apple’s corporate view not just his alone as an individual. The slightly surprising thing about this support is that while the discrimination itself is wrong opposing it might not be in Apple’s direct best interests.”

“Typically economists like to split discrimination into parts, rational and taste. Rational discrimination is just that, rational. We’d probably not select a quadriplegic as a waiter, someone math ignorant as a quant in a hedge fund, an illiterate as a print journalist: these are all obvious and logical examples of where the natural endowments of an individual make them unsuitable for a specific job or task. It’s thus entirely rational for us to discriminate in this manner, even sensible for us to do so,” Worstall writes. “Taste discrimination is another matter and it is this that most people associate with the word discrimination unadorned. People making unreasonable distinctions on the basis of sex, gender, race or other such attributes.”

Worstall writes, “Clearly, Apple benefits from not discriminating. But equally clearly, Apple benefits from whatever discrimination happens elsewhere, as [American economist Gary Becker] has explained. Because, to whatever extent that discrimination does happen elsewhere, this increases the number of talented people that Apple can hire.”

Much more – including concern over unintended consequences – in the full article here.

Related article:
Tim Cook: Workplace equality is good for business; one reason why congress should support the Employment Nondiscrimination Act – November 4, 2013


  1. This is not the difference between rational v taste it is discrimination vs unsuitable or unqualified. If a person is physically incapable of doing a job i.e. the quadriplegic waiter (baring some type of prosthetic) not hiring them is not discrimination, nor is not hiring either of the other two scenarios. Not hiring a fully qualified applicant because they are black or gay or female that is discrimination.

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