Why Group Politics Is Not Good for Diversity Working

In today’s America, when its demographics continue to grow more and more diverse in race and ethnicity, when even gender, sexual orientation, lifestyles, and other dimensions are shifting and becoming diverse as well, an awareness of diversity is essential. Not only as praxis for institutions and organizations – but basically for individuals themselves. It is an ideal society when peace, justice, and compassion reign. When people of diverse backgrounds, beliefs, ideologies, worldviews, and preferences can co-exist without conflicts, tension/fear, discrimination, and isolation. But such is human nature that people tend to congregate with like-minded individuals. Thus, the thriving of social groups, religious groups, group politics, clans, you name it.

Groups thrive because of their strength. Among the signs that a group is thriving or is healthy and strong – based on their group dynamics – is group cohesion or ego strength (sufficient to permit assimilation of new ideas and new members, to use conflict instead of being destroyed by it, to hold to long-term goals, and to profit from both failure and from success situations)See more here.

On the one hand, there is something good in this. There is strength in numbers. This is an expression we often say when we mean one gets support from others in the group. It is defined as the “emotional and moral strength from a group of people.” See also this. Yet, too much attachment to group values can come with issues and challenges. As the definition above says, that kind of strength can lead to a “mob mentality.”

Indeed, it is a fact of life that individuals often tend to go with the flow of their group. They are afraid to go out of their comfort zones. They are afraid to speak up against injustices and unfairness that their group tends to promote. Hence, the challenge of diversity working in society is so great it seems insurmountable. In any society there will always be resistance to anything, or anyone different from the mainstream. Among the closed-minded, rigid members or those fearful of breaking the status quo.


Now we come to what we call groupthink. This is a term said to be first used by the social psychologist, Irving L. Janis, to describe the phenomenon wherein people tend to strive to gain consensus within a group

When people engage in groupthink, they set aside their personal beliefs and adopt the group’s ideas or opinions. People often choose to stay silent on things they disagree with. They would rather be silent than disrupt the peace and conformity of the group.

This psychological phenomenon results in an irrational or dysfunctional decision-making outcome. What often can be observed in societies today that often go hand in hand with discrimination is stereotyping. This is one of the symptoms of groupthink. According to the first article on groupthink mentioned above, stereotyping leads members of the in-group to ignore or even demonize out-group members who may oppose or challenge the group’s ideas.

Unquestioned beliefs are another symptom of groupthink are. This leads members to ignore possible moral problems and ignore consequences of individual and group actions. Rationalizing is another symptom that prevents members from reconsidering their beliefs and causes them to ignore warning signs. This brings to mind Milton Friedman (1912-2006), an American economist. In 1976 he was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for his research on consumption analysis, monetary history and theory, and the complexity of stabilization policy.


In a forum at the University of Chicago, Milton Friedman spoke on the evils of collectivism. This is a form of groupthink, saying in part:

“Where do you have the greatest degree of inequality in the socialist states of the world? Don’t look at what the proponents of one system or another say are their intentions, but look at what the actual results are.[…] The most harm of all is done when power is in the hands of people who are absolutely persuaded of the purity of their instincts and the purity of their intentions. […] I have no reason to doubt that Lenin was a man whose intentions were good, maybe they weren’t, but he was completely persuaded that he was right, and he was willing to use any methods at all for the ultimate good.”

Here is one example of how collectivism – in providing healthcare – is not doing diversity any good. An American doctor, John Hunt, MD, gave up his medical practice in the US and went to Liberia to continue working as a doctor. He said in his interview with Foundation for Economic Education, “As the system is so profoundly broken and immoral now that I had to pay heed to brilliant modern philosopher Paul Rosenberg, who recently modified the quote attributed to Edmund Burke. Rosenberg says, ‘The only thing necessary for evil to succeed is for good men to obey.’ See more here.

Another article explains collectivism as: The result of refusing to think gives those in power carte blanche to think for us. This is the essence of collectivism […] The refusal to think for ourselves is at the root of most (if not all) of the corruption we face in our current political system. Naturally, when we allow others to think and make our decisions for us, we give up that which makes us free in the first place: our personal responsibility and, thus, ownership of our own lives. Thereafter we enter into a vicious circle where we expect others to take care of us – to fix what ails us and to keep us happy – but since we are all individuals with different wants, desires, and needs, no one solution will cure all. 

Some thoughts on collectivism

“The historical experience of socialist countries has sadly demonstrated that collectivism does not do away with alienation but rather increases it, adding to it a lack of basic necessities and economic inefficiency.” – Pope John Paul II 

“The tyranny of a multitude is a multiplied tyranny.” – Edmund Burke

“I think a major reason why intellectuals tend to move towards collectivism is that the collectivist answer is a simple one. If there’s something wrong, pass a law and do something about it.” – Milton Friedman

Group Politics: How group politics work

The workings of group politics – an example of groupthink – is such that members strongly adhere and limit themselves to their group’s political ideal(s) without expanding their horizon to appreciate and understand other groups’ political beliefs. 

There is a tendency to be closed-minded about anything or anyone outside their group’s political ideals. This fosters hatred and distrust of anyone who disagrees with them often come about. They can also overestimate their power and influence, as explained above.

Disadvantages of Adhering to Group Politics– why Group Politics Not Good for Diversity Working 

Following Irving Janis’ line of thinking when he expounded on groupthink, group politics gives rise to problems. Such problems include giving in to the pressure to conform to the group’s uniformity and feelings of self-righteousness, much to the detriment of diversity working in society. See this.

Not only will institutions fail in their work towards the greater, common good, but inner tension and struggle between doing what is good and bad, between what’s right and wrong, will assail the individuals themselves – for sure, many will be pricked by their conscience. Imagine these scenarios:

Yesterday, I watched a man from my group stamp his boot underside on the USA flag. I then learn that man’s group is the same as mine. What am I supposed to do or think?

Questions a person struggling between his/her individual values and that of his/her group may ponder: 1. How I felt when others were protecting their own because of the group. 2. Now I am faced with the decision to defend my group or defend my values over my group’s.

Individual vs. Group Values 

We all have our own values instilled deep within us. They are nurtured, formed from birth, and reinforced by our circumstances, environment, and experiences. No matter how we suppress or repress them – due to outside pressure, these values will always remain in us. Deep down, these values we hold dear are part of who we are.

If individual members go with the flow or give in to what the group values and lives by, they lose their right to judge situations properly. Over time they lose their confidence to speak up and break the status quo. These thoughts and ideas are usually ingrained by the group’s elite leadership, regardless of whether their values may be right or wrong. We cannot blindly hand in our precious rights to a selected few telling us what to think and do. The group suffers in the end for having a limited vision of what is good for the group, and the general society at large.

Milton Friedman quote rightfully points out why groupthink or group politics is not good for diversity working: 

In my opinion, there is not a single thing you could do in this world that would do more to improve the condition of the black people who are in the lowest income classes, of the black people who have been most affected by discrimination, there is not anything you could do that would be more affected than the voucher scheme. Why? Because as I said to you before, and I challenge anybody to deny it, that there’s no respect in which the black and the slum is more deprived than in the quality of schooling he can get. He’s much worse off in that respect than he is even in the quality of the housing he can get and in the quality of the automobile he can buy and the quality of the job he can get with given education.

Real diversity working is when there is a free, safe exchange of ideas among ALL members. A checks and balances of values when the greater good is at risk or compromised or individual’s values are likewise compromised. Diversity working in society is when there is real freedom, equality, and justice. When no one, by choice, will have to live below poverty. Each individual in society has the capacity and should be given that opportunity to contribute in whatever way one can. This is essential to the betterment of their life and others, to promote the general welfare of society, making sure each one gets their fair share of the country’s benefits. A society of diversity working is where each can have the equal opportunity to lead, to serve, to critique, to question, to speak up. 

Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to reform (or pause and reflect). –Mark TwainNotebook