Equality of Opportunity, Part One

Perfect equality of opportunity would require everyone to be born in precisely identical circumstances — not merely in homes of identical material wealth, but rather in circumstances entirely without differentiating conditions that might slant life ever so slightly in favor of this or that individual.

Those truly equal in opportunity must necessarily be born among the same number of siblings, and in precisely the same position relative to the others, i.e., the same number and proportion of older and younger siblings. They must have immediate and general social influences of exactly the same character, with which they interact in the same ways and at exactly the same pace. They must be presented with the same early developmental encouragement, incentives, restrictions, and punishments. At each stage of youth, they must be supplied with the same material goods and the same physical conditions, and taught the same subjects in the same order by teachers of precisely the same level of competence, skill, and enthusiasm. 

In short, true equality of opportunity would entail everyone being raised in the same family, attending the same schools, and being given all the same practical benefits as everyone else, without exception. It is thus evident that equality of opportunity in the full and unqualified sense would be possible, if at all, only in a thoroughly totalitarian state in which every individual was raised and equipped by the state itself, detached from any influence of private family or idiosyncratic social or psychological circumstances, under universally identical conditions and supervision, and in accordance with uniform rules and procedures.

Otherwise, equality of opportunity can mean little in practice other than that each individual should be permitted to be born alive, and protected by social norms and community laws from being murdered or otherwise intentionally deprived of life or the products of his labor during the course of his natural lifespan. In other words, our choice is between ideal equality in chains or imperfect equality in freedom. Which option one prefers depends on the relative weight one gives to the priorities of equality and life. Given that equality, as explained above, may be fully achieved only through tremendous and perpetual artifice, we may say that the choice is between technÄ“ and physis, craft and nature — between a manmade simulacrum of Being and the real thing.

Modern man made his choice — our choice — roughly two centuries ago, and has never looked back. With each passing season, we approach ever closer to our dream of perfect equality of opportunity, which is to say a perfectly unnatural mode of existence. Our genius is that, thanks in large measure to Rousseau and romanticism, we have fatally redefined human nature as “primitive equality” — rather than “life in accordance with purpose and reason,” which is primarily what nature meant for the classical philosophers — thereby cleverly rationalizing progressive authoritarianism itself as the best means of recapturing nature, rather than what it properly is, namely the surest means of obliterating nature.

Thus, in the distorted name of nature itself, we proceed blithely on our merry way to the genuine primitivism of clubs and tethers, i.e., of man deprived of his natural ends. But with smartphones!

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