“Friedman Friday” Milton Friedman and the Heritage Foundation on what equality of opportunity really means

No other issue is more misunderstood today than equality. President Obama has used class warfare over and over the last few months and according to him equality at the finish line is the equality that we should all be talking about. However, socialism has never worked and it has always killed incentive to produce more. Milton Friedman expressed the conversative’s best and I am glad that I had the chance to be studying his work for over 30 years now.

In 1980 when I first sat down and read the book “Free to Choose” I was involved in Ronald Reagan’s campaign for president and excited about the race. Milton Friedman’s books and film series really helped form my conservative views. Take a look at one of my favorite films of his:

Created Equal [1/7]. Milton Friedman’s Free to Choose (1980)

Uploaded by on May 30, 2010

In this program, Milton Friedman visits India, the U.S., and Britain, examining the question of equality. He points out that our society traditionally has embraced two kinds of equality: equality before God and equality of opportunity. The first of these implies that human beings enjoy a certain dignity simply because they are members of the human community. The second suggests societies should allow the talents and inclinations of individuals to unfold, free from arbitrary barriers. Both of these concepts of equality are consistent with the goal of personal freedom.

In recent years, there has been growing support for a third type of equality, which Dr. Friedman calls “equality of outcome.” This concept of equality assumes that justice demands a more equal distribution of the economic fruits of society. While admitting the good intentions of those supporting the idea of equality of outcome, Dr. Friedman points out that government policies undertaken in support of this objective are inconsistent with the ideal of personal freedom. Advocates of equality of outcome typically argue that consumers must be protected by government from the insensitivities of the free market place.

Dr. Friedman demonstrates that in countries where governments have pursued the goal of equality of outcome, the differences in wealth and well being between the top and the bottom are actually much greater than in countries that have relied on free markets to coordinate economic activity. Indeed, says Dr. Friedman, it is the ordinary citizen who benefits most from the free market system. Dr. Friedman concludes that any society that puts equality ahead of freedom will end up with neither. But the society that puts freedom before equality will end up with both greater freedom and great equality.

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Great article on equality below:

David Weinberger

April 20, 2012 at 10:52 am

New York Times columnist Paul Krugman recently steamed about the lack of equal opportunity in America. In his view, “government falls down on the job of creating equal opportunity.” He’s also huffed that:

When you hear conservatives talk about how our goal should be equality of opportunity, not equality of outcomes, your first response should be that if they really believe in equality of opportunity, they must be in favor of radical changes in American society.

This begs the question: What is equal opportunity? It’s certainly an idea claimed by both the right and the left, so why is it that the right insists it exists while the left stridently claims it has yet to be achieved?

The answer has to do with the two sides’ differing concepts of equality of opportunity.

Conservatives maintain that all humans possess inherently equal rights and should therefore be treated equally before the law. They do, however, recognize that people are unequal in many other regards: People are born into different situations and with different talents and abilities. But no one should face interference or legal obstacles in cultivating his talents and industry.

The great Frederick Douglass eloquently advanced this idea:

If men were born in need of crutches, instead of having legs, the fact would be otherwise. We should then be in need of help, and would require outside aide; but according to the wiser and better arrangement of nature, our duty is done better by not hindering than by helping our fellow-men; or, in other words, the best way to help them is just to let them help themselves.

The left has transformed this traditional understanding of equal opportunity into one where it is not enough that people possess equal inherent rights and receive equal treatment before the law. People must all be given the same opportunities—no one may have more opportunities than someone else. Under this belief, when one is born in a city where some people have more opportunities than others, it is the duty of government to equalize them, by taking resources from the well-off and giving them to the less well-off. As founder Nathaniel Chipman wrote, this violates justice twice:

To exclude the meritorious from riches and honors, and to perpetuate either to the undeserving, are equally injurious to the rights of man in society. In both it is to counteract the laws of nature, which have, by the connection of cause and effect, annexed the proper rewards and punishments to the actions of men. Wealth, or at least, a competency, is the reward, provided by the laws of nature, for prudent industry; want, the punishment of idleness and profligacy.

Utilizing government to equalize groups contradicts the proposition that everyone is equal before the law and possesses equal rights: How can resources be directed toward those with less without implying that they’re different before the law and in the rights they possess?

This worldview by definition cannot ever be satisfied, because, short of socialism, there will always be individuals who own and command more resources than the rest.

Furthermore, equality of opportunity encompasses much more than mere economic condition. Consider natural athletic talent, intelligence, work ethic—are we going to handicap the most talented athletes, dumb down the most intelligent people, and restrain the hardest workers?

The debate about equality is not merely between equality of opportunity and equality of outcome. It’s also about the meaning of equality of opportunity. For the left, it means government must manufacture an equalized starting point in life. Short of socialism, this is impossible. Even so, an equal economic start would be no guarantor of equal opportunity, for that would also require controlling natural talents, abilities, and work ethics, which start on different levels. For the right, equal opportunity is about clearing obstacles and removing legal impediments to moving ahead in life. The difference explains why both sides can claim the mantle of equal opportunity yet be talking right past one another.

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