Monday, November 21, 2016

What is equality of opportunity?

There was an article written by a social justice warrior (which link I have lost and can't be bothered to google) talking about why the libertarian principle of equality of opportunity is a really bad thing. Even unconstitutional. It proceeded to describe "equality of opportunity" pretty much as "equality of outcome", which is one of the major criticism that egalitarians have about the modern social justice ideology. One example it gave of enforcing "equality of opportunity" was that if a person is born in a rich family, then his money would need to be taken away and distributed equally among the poorer people, to give everybody the same opportunities and not have somebody have an unfair advantage.

This is so wrong at so many levels. For one, that's quite directly what equality of outcome is, not equality of opportunity.

But at the most fundamental level it's a complete misunderstanding of what the principle of "equality of opportunity" means. I don't know if this is a deliberate or a genuine misunderstanding (I wouldn't be surprised if it were the former), but it's completely off the mark. That's not what the concept means at all.

Equality of opportunity is a quasi-legal concept. It means that nobody is socially discriminated based on personal characteristics such as gender, ethnicity, country of origin, sexual orientation, social status, and other such characteristics. More precisely, nobody is discriminated in things like education, hiring, basic freedoms, public services, and so on and so forth, based on those characteristics.

For example, rich and poor, white or black, man or woman, both have the same opportunity to apply to the same job. The employer ought to give a fair chance to everybody regardless of their external inconsequential characteristics, without discrimination, and hire people based on qualifications and merit, rather than based on things like race or sexual orientation.

Educational institutions (such as universities) should offer the exact same opportunity for enrollment to all qualified people regardless of gender, race, social status and so on. Enrollment should be a question of qualifications, not a question of personal characteristics such as race. While in some cases the question of money may become relevant (as most universities in the world are not free), the discrimination should nevertheless not be based on personal characteristics (such as gender, etc.)

Obviously outcome will not be the same for all people. Not everybody is as qualified as everybody else, not everybody is able or willing to do the same things, not everybody has the same knowledge, experience or skills. The important thing, however, is that they are given the opportunity to pursue whatever path they choose, if they so choose, without being stopped or hindered by personal characteristics, because of discrimination or favoritism.

What this means is that, among other things, hiring quotas are blatantly against this principle of equality of opportunity. Hiring quotas are discrimination based on these personal characteristics, as it's favoritism towards some people with such characteristics, and discrimination against others. Not everybody is given the same opportunity to be hired, based on merit and qualifications. Instead, some people are given preferential treatment based on gender, race, etc. which directly implies that people without those characteristics will be discriminated against.

This is the reason why I, personally, strongly oppose hiring quotas (and other such quotas, eg. in university enrollment). It's discrimination based on gender, race or other such characteristics, which is blatantly against the most fundamental human rights, constitutionalism, and libertarian values.

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