Paul Krugman has two recent blog posts (one, two) on the issue of “equality of opportunities” vs. “equality of outcomes.” It seems that these posts, and his “Climate of Hate” op ed, have gotten him a lot of hate mail. I composed a quick comment on his latest blog post. Here:
I’d push the reductio ad absurdum of the “conservative” argument all the way to its limit.
Since one’s opportunities depend ultimately on his holdings of wealth (“physical” and “human,” not only individual but also “social,” since one’s performance depends crucially on his setting), then the only way to enforce equality of opportunities would be to periodically redistribute wealth along egalitarian lines. In fact, if one’s to be strict (people are being born, and then born again, at every instant), it would have to be a continuous reshuffling process, which means that equality of opportunities would converge to equality of outcomes! Private ownership (and markets) would be emptied out of any real substance, because what would the point be of “owning” something formally if the benefits from using it or (“exchanging” it) don’t go to you, the “owner”?
If they were serious about equality of opportunities, conservatives would be joining the communist party!
Michael Corleone fantasized that by legalizing the illicit, or switching his wealth to legal venues (and donating millions to charity), he would make his ill-gotten fortune legit (and blessed), thus being able to enjoy it as any other decent, law-abiding (and God-fearing) citizen. The sponsors of the Tea Party do not seem particularly inclined towards charity, so they fund university programs and libertarian think tanks (and… well… the Tea Party) to make us believe that the existing distribution of private endowments is sacred, taxation is theft, the public interest does not exist, etc. Just when they think they are out, they will be pulled back in.
History is not ending any time soon.