Monday, February 23, 2015

People Don't Really Believe in Equality of Opportunity

Provocative assertion of the day:

People don't really believe in equality of opportunity.

In order for there to be true equality of opportunity, every child has to have the same opportunities to succeed.

Yet what parent among us has ever resisted the urge to give our child an advantage?

Move to a better neighborhood for its schools?  That's inequality of opportunity.

Pay for afterschool enrichment and activities?  That's inequality of opportunity.

Inherit money from your parents?  That's inequality of opportunity.

The desire to give your child an advantage is the product of millions of years of evolution.  Genes trump ideology.

That being said, we should strive against our selfish nature to provide greater equality of opportunity.

A social safety net doesn't try to ensure equality of outcomes; its goal is to provide a reasonable minimum standard of living.

The same is true for equality of opportunity; the basic education and services the state provides should be enough to allow each child a reasonable chance at a middle-class life.

Not every child can go to Harvard, but every child should have the opportunity to get a useful education.  The hard part is drawing the line for that minimum standard.


Rebecca said...

I like the provocation!

I think that its more that people don't actually DESIRE equality of opportunity, largely for two reasons:

1) They want to give their kids the leg up, as you argued

2) They have the chance to make it big... in a way that is unequal, unfair and not a ton of work. I think I best heard this sentiment as "America is full of millionaires and soon to be millionaires"

In other words, the dream of unequal is a greater pull than the realities of equality.

Finally, I hypothesize that people who are on the lower portion of unequal likely find comfort in the inequality -- it's not my fault, I was screwed into this situation.

Chris said...


I'm constantly amazed by people who want to get rich quick without working.

While lighting does sometimes strike, wealth is usually the product of a lot of patience and hard work.

(Of course, it's important to note that hard work is necessary, but not sufficient--the right approach is the key!)