Let me ask you a fairly simple question. If I’m four feet tall and not remotely athletic, and another individual is six feet nine inches tall and a sterling basketball player, which of us do you think is more likely to find a place in professional basketball?
Here’s another good one. Say there’s a fellow out there with an IQ of 148 and six college degrees at Master’s and PhD levels, and I have an IQ that barely breaks 100 and squeaked by in high school, which of us do you suppose is likely to be offered a slot in a group of folks recruited for great intelligence? How about given a job teaching at a post-secondary level?
In either of the above cases, it’s possible the underdog could win the day. If we’re being honest though, who’s far more likely to thrive in each case? I would certainly push for the one who’s more readily able, based on desirable qualities.
Did you know that taller, bigger, United States Air Force pilots, are typically given positions in bombers, tankers and the like, and smaller ones are more generally given positions in fighters and other not-so-large aircraft?
Much has been made of the idea of equality. Many who talk about it don’t bother to distinguish between potential types of equality.
A good number of people have at least taken the time to indicate they’re speaking particularly about equality of opportunity as opposed to equality of outcome.
Where this limits the field somewhat, it’s still a generally unreasonable proposition. The examples above should help to detail my argument.
Once upon a time, there was a relatively skinny young man who could lift enormous amounts of weight. It’s rumored that man tried his hand at boxing and though quite small and thin, regularly hurt his opponents as a result of his power—to the degree that he decided he needed to quit boxing before he killed an adversary.
That same man later competed quite successfully in bodybuilding competitions. Arguing that he didn’t have genetic advantages over the majority of his fellows in certain regards, would be to ignore reality.
There’s an obvious thrust to what I’ve said to this point. It’s that the idea even of the equality of opportunity is no more realistic than that of the equality of outcomes.
The fact is, you can predict the likely outcome of a competition between two people attempting to perform the same task—particularly on an ongoing basis—by looking at four things. Physicality, mental ability, determination, and training and practice.
You can conclude that for some processes one or more of these is less important than for others. If, for example, you’re talking about something that’s inherently physical in nature—something that requires little to no mental prowess, you can somewhat ignore property of mental ability. Likewise, if a task is almost exclusively based in something like rationality, with next to no physical component, you can generally pay little attention to physicality.
The dark horses in this race, are determination, and training and practice. It’s entirely possible that a sufficiently determined person can spend enough time and effort in training and practice related activities, to give him or her an advantage over even someone who’s genetically superior.
Recognizing that determination is technically a part of mental ability, and training and practice might be part of either of the two, or more likely both, we might conclude that the discussion can be limited to mental ability and physicality.
Regardless all of this though, the thing I’m trying to get to here, is that even where opportunity is concerned, equality is pretty much an impossibility.
There are things that can make this even more the case. If you happen to find yourself in North Korea, for example, the chances you’ll accomplish things like, becoming a billionaire, are a great deal lower than if you happen to be in the United States.
The same argument can be made for a goodly number of possible pursuits. That one place may allow you more opportunity to succeed than another should go without saying.
There are, of course, other considerations that can be added as well. For example, the natural resources of the part of a country in which a given person lives, and their ability to get those resources from elsewhere, may make success more or less likely.
If you ask many persons what they mean by equality, I’m sure most would agree with something like, “Having the opportunity to try, whether one succeeds or not, to do some thing.” This, I believe, is the point being made by those arguing for equality of opportunity.
Where it’s true you could contend it was an issue of equality, realizing that it’s illegal to murder folks in most places, means your chances of becoming a world class serial killer are dependent on your not getting caught; since you’re not offered the ability to work at such a goal without pretty extreme consequences if you’re found out.
Taking that into account, most people don’t even support unbridled liberty, much less any form or type of equality.
So if they were asked to be realistic about what they support, I think the majority of folks would end up saying something like, “The liberty to try and fail, within reason and inside the law.” Some would argue that breaking the law is an acceptable thing if one desires to be successful, at least to a degree. I’m unwilling to argue a contrary position even though mostly, I’m not so much in support of lawlessness.
In the end though, the truth is I’m pretty sure more people have an interest in the liberty to try, and win or lose as a result within reason, than honestly support any kind of equality.
This idea is in pretty staunch support of the thesis of this article.
What is the main point of this piece? That as a rule, equality where people are concerned is mythical—it doesn’t exist—either in opportunity or outcomes. If you think about it, that’s not only an acceptable thing, it’s actually a good one. That it’s not bad is the more wonderful, based on its impossibility. So what’re most people actually desirous of? The simple answer is, “Reasonable liberty to try and gain or lose.”
Thanks for reading, and may your time be good.