Barack Obama Domestic issues Political Philosophy Politics The Opinionsphere

Equality of Result versus Equality of Opportunity

[digg-reddit-me]It is noteworthy that a certain type of older conservative or right-wing intellectual finds it necessary to insist repeatedly that Obama’s politics is “the same old” stuff as liberals tried earlier in history. These olders intellectuals try to place Obama in the context of typical big-government liberals – and they presume by doing so they are taking the wind out of his sails and making him a more prosaic and less historic figure.

Victor Davis Hanson recently wrote a column explaining that Obama was interested in “the same old equality of result.” He describes the debate going back to the Greeks between “the equality of result” and “the equality of opportunity” – and he identified France with the first and America with the second. His implicit question: Do we want to become France? George Will and others have described Obama’s administration as the third or fourth wave of liberalism. There is a strong need among this group to get across the message that Obama isn’t different – he isn’t change – he’s just more of the same stuff that they – as Republicans – defeated back in 1980 and 1984 and 1994 and 2004. 

But insistince does not make it so.

Obama’s liberalism is not the liberalism of the Great Society or of Jimmy Carter – or even of Bill Clinton. Hanson, Will, and others refuse to acknowledge that in the debate between equality of result and equality of opportunity, they already won. Obamaism is about expanding equality of opportunity – which would be clear if Hanson were doing more than reciting talking points. Look at the three specific programs Hanson cites before claiming Obama wants “equality of results”:

…creating a new health care bureaucracy, cap-and-trade, allotting trillions more for education…

None of these try to achieve an “equality of results.” They are about ensuring people equal opportunity to succeed – and ensuring the market properly prices activities which are damaging to society in general. For example, if you want everyone to have an equal opportunity to succeed, you need to make sure that everyone who is intelligent enough and works hard enough can get an education. Health care costs and concerns have made it much more difficult for smaller businesses to succeed – so Obama is proposing to open up the federal program. This will even the playing field in competition between big and medium- to small-sized companies to a significant degree. Cap and trade imposes a market mechanism to take into account the costs of polluting activities.

Hanson and the others of his generation need to understand that they won the opportunity versus results debate. Liberalism today has evolved to deal with the demands of the moment

Perhaps they should focus on their own political philosophy to see that it does as well.

2 replies on “Equality of Result versus Equality of Opportunity”

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