- In cases when the government does create programs that aim to give more opportunities to the disadvantaged, these programs ought to be rigorously evaluated to see whether they actually deliver on their promises. Government programs have failed more often than not. “Though almost any reasonable-sounding program will probably work under some conditions,” one expert writes, “most fail most of the time. The burden of proof should always be on those who claim that some new program is worth the investment.”
We should always be very cautious of being seduced by the promise of sameness of opportunity. To do so would not only obliterate any limits upon the role of government, but also lead inevitably to calls that the opportunities of others be curtailed. Indeed, it is easy to see how equality of opportunity, when taken to this extreme, can become “a thoroughly nasty and totalitarian concept.”
As there are great natural differences in aptitude, talent, and strength, which are in turn attenuated or accentuated by happenstance, so too are there different vocations, occupations, and professions in which some excel while others just muddle along
In the short story Harrison Bergeron, Kurt Vonnegut vividly describes a dystopian future in which those of above-average strength, intelligence, and beauty are artificially handicapped to prevent them from “taking unfair advantage” of their natural endowments. Thus, the lead character is hampered by heavy weights. “In the race of life, Harrison carried three hundred pounds,” Vonnegut wryly writes.
This reveals the limits of the race-of-life analogy. Not only are we not racing against everyone else-happiness is not a limited and exhaustible national resource-but we are not all going toward the same end (unless, like Woody Allen, you count death). It therefore does not matter that we don’t all begin at the same starting line and that we are not equally fast runners. What does matter is that the laws governing the journey apply equally to all. In that sense, and in that sense only, equality of opportunity is a basic requirement of justice and an integral component of the American Dream.
Therefore, all citizens ought to be equal before the law and ought to possess the same civil rights
Beyond this fundamental equality, human diversity and the vagaries of life are such that men and women are unequal in every other conceivable way. By nature, humans span the entire range of the IQ scale, their physical differences are obvious for all to see, and one need only observe children at play to see that we are born with quite different temperaments and inclinations. To further accentuate our natural differences, we are born into different families at different times and in different places. And there is something called luck. By the time we reach adulthood, we have been shaped, for better or worse, by myriad tangible and intangible factors.
In surveying a dynamic society such as ours, we can only marvel at the extraordinarily rich and diverse tapestry of people who comprise it. Who, then, but a fool or a utopian ideologue will expect anything approximating equal results when it comes to income if such people are left geek2geek profielen free to define happiness and pursue it as they see fit?
Because we are free, some inevitably will earn more and others less. Translating all of this into dollars and cents, great income disparities are a natural part of a free economy. As Thomas Jefferson remarked, equality of rights and “that state of property, equal or unequal, which results to every man from his own industry, or that of his father’s” go together.