What's this "equality of opportunity" nonsense we're now hearing?
John Key told Campbell in a chatty, mates-together to-camera the other night that he wasn't interested in the Labour mantra of "equality of outcome"; he intended instead to pursue "equality of opportunity." His multiple dissemblings over the Maori seats (to abolish or not to abolish, that is the sixty-four seat question) has made it clear he has no bottom lines, but the "equality of opportunity" talking point was one that was raised in the campaign by David Farrar, raised again this week by John Key, and recycled just yesterday by National's ambitious Auckland Central bimbo Nikki Kaye: "I'm a National member because ..." says the Blonde Ambition, sniffing the air for clues ... "because I really believe in the equality of opportunity for all, not the equality of outcome."
Is this already a Labour-Lite talking point then? Once is happenstance -- twice is surely design -- the third time must surely be evidence of collusion, especially by one so ambitious as Ms Kaye.
But is it a reasonable goal to pursue? Is it even a good thing? No, says George Reisman, it isn't. It is no more reasonable to pursue equality of opportunity through the use of government force than it is equality of outcome: both of these are simply misguided attempts to use government power against the facts of reality.
The fact is that people are not born equal, and they can't be made equal by government decree -- and nor can the opportunities that are open to them. A responsible government should pursue neither the closing of gaps nor the equality of opportunity -- the result of both is merely new positions of privilege, a new aristocracy, and destructive nonsense like affirmative action and racial quotas.
What it should pursue instead is the ending of privilege and the removal of government hurdles to individual action.
In other words, it is not equality of opportunity that a responsible government should pursue but freedom of opportunity. That's really what it means to have one law for all. "Let us consider what opportunities actually are," suggests Reisman, "and then establish some important facts about them."
"An opportunity is merely an occasion on which successful action is
possible. It is a situation that an individual can take advantage of to his gain.
What needs to be realized about opportunities is, first of all, that there is
no scarcity of them; they arise again and again. The second thing that needs to
be understood is that what is important in connection with them and deserves
to be fought for, as a matter both of justice and universal self-interest, is not
that vicious absurdity “the equality of opportunity” but the freedom of opportunity.
... what needs to be understood about opportunities is that they can be and regularly are created by individuals. Indeed, opportunities are themselves products of human thought and action..."
Opportunities are everywhere. It's not the abundance of opportunities that is a problem, but the paucity of vision that is unable to see them.
"Let us consider the abundance of opportunities. An opportunity exists
every time there is the possibility of improving oneself in any way. If one is
penniless and there is an unfilled job available that one has the ability to fill,
one has the opportunity of ending one’s pennilessness. If one has a job, and
there is any better job available that one has the ability to fill, one has the
opportunity to improve one’s position further. If there is any skill that one
does not possess, but is capable of learning, then one has the opportunity of
adding to one’s skills.
In fact, in the nature of the case, the economic opportunities potentially
open to the individual far exceed his ability to exploit them, with the result
that he must choose among them, selecting some and rejecting others. This
follows from the fact that there is always room for improvement in the
satisfaction of man’s wants, and that the basis for carrying out such improvement
is the performance either of more labor or of more productive labor.
In other words, built into the fact that man’s wants can always be satisfied more
fully or better is the opportunity for the performance of more labor as the
means of satisfying them more fully or better, and the opportunity for improving
the productivity of his labor.
... it follows that in the nature of things there are potentially limitless
opportunities both for increasing employment and for raising the productivity
of labor, for there are virtually limitless possibilities for improvement in the
satisfaction of man’s wants. Indeed, the potential opportunities for employment
always dwarf man’s ability actually to work, which is the major reason
that he must be concerned with raising the productivity of his labor.
People may wonder, of course, how it can be true that there are virtually
limitless employment opportunities and yet, at the same time, the world in
which we live is characterized by chronic mass unemployment and the
experience of millions is that they have no opportunity for work. There is a
simple reconciliation of these facts. Namely, misguided laws and social
institutions deny man the freedom of exploiting the opportunities for employment
that the nature of reality offers him, and so force unemployment upon him.
The problem of unemployment [about which we're going to see a lot more very soon] is is the result of the violation of the freedom of opportunity -- i.e., the violation of man's freedom to exploit the opportunities that that reality offers him.
The freedom of opportunity means, to be precise, the ability to exploit the opportunities afforded by reality, without being stopped by the initiation of physical force.
That's a great definition: "the ability to exploit the opportunities afforded by reality, without being stopped by the initiation of physical force." And as we know, the biggest initiator of physical force bar none is the government.
People are unable to find work not because there is no work for them in reality, but because government and labor-union interference, based on the initiation of physical force, prices their labour beyond the reach of potential employers ... [specifically through] inflation of the money supply ... coupled with so-called pro-union legislation.
So if the new Key regime wants to do a decent job on this score, to promote the freedom of opportunity, then it must work urgently towards removing those misguided laws and social institutions that while building up a chosen few, restricts every other New Zealanders' freedom of opportunity.
But that would assume it regarded freedom of opportunity as a goal worth pursuing, or even understood its desirability.