Monday, January 31, 2011

Equal Opportunity

The Right says it favors equality of opportunity rather than equality of outcomes. But equality of opportunity requires equality of capitalization, which the Right is not really in favor of. Opportunity requires the availability of resources.

Equal opportunity is impossible with a mal-distribution of wealth. The OECD notes “:…lack of equal opportunity may affect the motivation, effort and, ultimately, the productivity of citizens, with adverse effects on the overall efficiency and the growth potential of the economy."

Opportunity is (statistically) proportionate to wealth. Therefore, a greater equality in distribution of opportunity requires a greater equality in distribution of wealth.

Indeed, the distribution of resources producing equality of opportunity and that producing equality of outcomes are the same distribution, and is not particularly desirable: All outcomes are equal, and there is no opportunity.

So what we are looking for is that distribution of physical and social resources and opportunities, which most enables society to take advantage of its human resources. This is also the one that allows the greatest opportunity for individual advancement.

Individuals with superior abilities are born at all levels of society. For a society to prosper and compete, it must take advantage of these individuals. To do this, society must invest in these individuals. It must capitalize them. This requires different capital inputs at different stages in individual development.

The most important investment in human capital is in childhood, when the individual must be convinced of the desirability to capitalize himself: To invest time and effort into his own future, as a valuable and valued individual and citizen. First he must have the example of parents and neighbors, which means they themselves must receive adequate reward for effort and initiative. They must have opportunity for, and there must be examples of, advancement. Opportunity, to be taken advantage of, must first be perceived. This depends on the wealth of the community in which the individual is raised. A poor community will have few examples of success, many examples of failure.

The quality of the schools depends on the wealth of the community. In general, poor communities have poor schools: Undercapitalized institutions trying to instruct under-acculturated children. This is especially the case where there is no mixing of funds from other, wealthier communities, as through state wide tax support for education. Many superior individuals in inferior schools will be discouraged.

If the slope of wealth and opportunity is too steep, only the very best will be able to navigate it. And they likely will not get to the most suitable places for themselves. And even these will require some opportunity. Since opportunity is distributed, many of the best with inferior opportunity will not succeed within the parameters of their society, but will find themselves trapped at the bottom. This happens in the best of circumstances, but is aggravated with a mal-distribution of wealth and opportunity. Where there are inadequate avenues of advancement, the management of society will be left to the children of the previous generation of the successful, who will tend to have regressed to the mean. Thus, the society will begin to be managed increasingly by the average and mediocre. This will put it at a disadvantage with respect to other societies. The alternative is to find superior agents, who will then be expected to labor without commensurate reward, on behalf of an aristocracy they cannot join, and who thus will have their own motives for mismanagement. They will also increasingly be opposed by superior individuals from the bottom. Many will be criminals, who will have found paths to legitimate power blocked.

The Right considers redistributive taxes as redistribution of rightful gain, whereas the Left should consider it redistribution of capital. The right would then claim that those with the income have shown they know where to invest capital, since they have received the gains from it. The left would maintain that much of those gains come from the common capital, and must be reinvested in common capital for the common welfare of society, of which the individual is a part.

The whole point of the wealthy sequestering their wealth, isolating it from redistribution, is to secure opportunity for themselves and secure for themselves and their children the effective hereditary privileges of an Aristocracy. This necessarily reduces opportunity available to the non- wealthy. From their point of view, this is reasonable, since opportunity is necessarily also the opportunity to compete with the wealthy. Indeed, the inheritance tax could be called an opportunity tax., since it’s purpose is to prevent the perpetuation of a Plutocracy, and to open up the paths of power to others.

The Right is not really interested in the survival of their society as a society. They pursue the interests of persons as individuals, in particular the wealthy.
So society for its survival, must find the proper gradient of wealth and power, that those individuals all along the power spectrum are continually replaced by those of appropriate ability.