ROARR’s Guiding Principles (Part III): Equality of Opportunity Does Not Imply Equality of Outcomes

In Part I of this series, I argued a fundamental reason our government is broken is the political selection process favoring ideological warriors over pragmatic problem solvers. I introduced my “Funnel of Futility” theory: as ideology becomes increasingly important in one’s decision-making process, the more futile working with an ideological opposite becomes. In contrast, as more data-intensive decision-makers interact, the partisan gap narrows, and government becomes more useful and efficient.

In Part II of this series, I argued government has overshot its equilibrium position in the modern U.S. economy, and Americans ought to make every effort to rein it in. That said, I suggested this site does not advocate a wide-ranging dismantling of every government department. As such, I advocated that the scalpel is always preferable to the hack saw when rolling back government overreach.

Today, I will introduce the third official guiding principle of Reflections of a Rational Republican — equality of opportunity does not imply equality of outcomes.

Equality of Opportunity Does Not Imply Equality of Outcomes

The single most important piece of my advice my father imparted was that life is not fair. We cannot control where or to whom we are born, nor the personal circumstances in which we are raised. In many cases, these circumstances may prove insurmountable despite someone’s best efforts and prevent that person from becoming as successful as he or she would have been under more advantageous circumstances.

This site whole-heartedly and enthusiastically supports institutions that promote and recruit people based on a purely meritocratic system. The more data that an institution uses to measure its people, the better.

Reflections of a Rational Republican also supports government efforts to level the playing field in business, government, and education through prohibiting discrimination based on race/ethnicity, gender, religion, sexual orientation, and veteran status. There are certain occasions when government needs to make exceptions. For instance, women can not serve in combat arms positions in the Army. This policy is a good one, not because women are not qualified to serve in these roles, but because mixing men and women in a combat situation is an unnecessary distraction that reduces unit cohesion and ultimately results in a less combat effective unit.

That said, Reflections of a Rational Republican vehemently opposes government favoritism towards certain groups based on immutable characteristics. Two wrongs do not make a right. Rewarding certain groups who have earned their status, such as veterans, is acceptable since that is based on a person’s actions rather than something that one is either born with or not.

Piercing the Veil of Ignorance

Liberal philosopher John Rawls proposed the concept of the “Veil of Ignorance,” which roughly states that most rational people would choose to live in a society that provides the greatest benefit to the least-advantaged, if they did not know their positions in society in advance. I disagree with this contention, because it assumes that everyone is risk averse. I would rather choose a society that advantages the hard-working and competent.

I also believe that government should have a role in providing a safety net for its people, but should not be tasked with providing able-bodied adults with a comfortable life supported by others’ hard work rather than their own.

Furthermore, I believe practices that deliberately favor people based purely on the circumstances of their birth are abhorrent and destructive. I find practices like nepotism revolting, and will oppose them whenever they rear their ugly heads. In the same vein, I find affirmative action policies to be outright examples of reverse racism that ultimately favor wealthy members of certain groups and most hurt poor whites and Asians.

Working Towards a Colorblind and Meritocratic Society

Government does not exist to redistribute wealth by providing handouts to certain individuals at the expense of hard-working families. Government does have a role in ensuring that all demographic groups have access to a level playing field. We must strive to provide people with the opportunity to stand or fall, win or lose, based solely on the value of their own merit.

About Sean Patrick Hazlett

Finance executive, engineer, former military officer, and science fiction and horror writer. Editor of the Weird World War III anthology.
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7 Responses to ROARR’s Guiding Principles (Part III): Equality of Opportunity Does Not Imply Equality of Outcomes

  1. Scott Erb says:

    Not only that but trying to equal outcomes along can create psychological dependency which is even more harmful to the person receiving the aid than the people giving it. Taxation of the wealthy does not usually do much harm to the wealthy. But simply redistributing wealth does do harm to those receiving who make a short term rational decision to accept ‘something for nothing,’ creating long term psychological harm. That’s why alcoholism rates were so high in the USSR, for example.

    I agree with parts I and III of your series, with partial agreement with number 2. I do think social welfare programs are important and health care should be like education and police protection — we should define it as something all citizens receive and will not cause bankruptcy. Yet to me the goal is equal opportunity. Beyond that I welcome there being rich and poor in society as long as those outcomes reflect the efforts, innovation and creative energy of those people. That does leave questions about the mentally or physically disabled and how to assure children of, say, lazy parents have real opportunity. I tend to think that markets require a more interventionist state to function both adequately and fairly (in terms of a level playing field), but I agree on the nature of the goal.

    • “I do think social welfare programs are important and health care should be like education and police protection — we should define it as something all citizens receive and will not cause bankruptcy.”

      That’s what worries me. While police protection has been excellent, government-funded education has pretty much been a failure. I fear that healthcare could go the same way as education. Right now, I don’t feel comfortable sending my children to California public schools. I can only imagine what it would be like not feeling comfortable to go to the hospital. I felt that way in the military — the witch doctors there even told my then-23-year old wife that they were going to have to cut into here breast because she might have breast cancer (we got a private second opinion, obviously, and the Army shaman was obviously wrong).

      Otherwise, I think we agree on all the other points. 😉

  2. Pingback: ROARR’s Guiding Principles (Part IV): Free Markets Are Preferable to Tightly Controlled Ones… | Reflections of a Rational Republican

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