“Equality of opportunity has seemed to many writers to be the minimal egalitarian goal, questionable (if at all) only for being too weak.” Robert Nozick, ASU, p. 235.
While the left stresses equality of results, some on the right promote equality of opportunity and think that everyone deserves an equal chance. While they do not see equality of outcomes as a matter of justice, they think that equality of opportunity is a requirement of justice and seek to use the state to at least give everyone an equal chance while letting the chips fall where they may after that.
But this is wrongheaded. Conservatives who reject equality of results should, for the same reasons, reject using the state to create equal opportunities. Consider an illustration from Nozick:
It is important to note that if the rejected suitor has a complaint of justice that someone else pay for plastic surgery, then he has a right against someone to his or her money for the surgery. But against whom does he have such a right? The other suitor? The lady? Everyone in his city? Country? The world? The question seems to have no good answer. This is not to say that the surgery would not be a good in his life; perhaps it would. But not everything which would be a good in one’s life is something to which one is entitled. It would be a good in my life if I knew everything there is to know about biology, but I have no right against anyone to all the knowledge there is of biology.
This is not to say that conservatives should not have some concerns of justice with respect to equality of opportunities. They should, but only in eradicating rights violations which prevent people from having equal opportunities that justice demands. For instance, if a gym teacher tells students that they are going to fun a race and that everyone is going to have an equal chance at winning, but he allows some to start on the inside lane while not staggering runners so that they all have to run the same distance around the track, those on the outside lanes have been treated unjustly (though of course a minor injustice in the grand scheme of things). The unequal starting points requires rectifying justice since each deserve the gym teacher setting up a fair race. They deserve this, at least in part, because they deserve him doing what he promised that he would do.
So too conservatives might have reasons apart from reasons of justice to create equal opportunities just so long as no one’s rights are being violated. For instance, a professor might be motivated by his students well-being to provide them all with an equal opportunity to do well in a course and receive A’s. Though too much concern for perceived well-being and equality could result in grade distributions like this.
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