Economics

Toward a Perfect Opportunity Society

In the Washington Post I argue:

We are not a perfect opportunity society in the United States. But if we want to approach that ideal, we must define fairness as meritocracy, embrace a system that rewards merit, and work tirelessly for true equal opportunity. The system that makes this possible, of course, is free enterprise. When I work harder or longer hours in the free-enterprise system, I am generally paid more than if I work less in the same job. Investments in my education translate into market rewards. Clever ideas usually garner more rewards than bad ones, as judged not by a politburo, but by citizens in the marketplace.

There is certainly a role for government in this system. Private markets can fail due to monopolies (which eliminate competition), externalities (such as pollution), the need for public goods (such as education, which is indispensable in an opportunity society), corruption and crime. Furthermore, most economists agree that some social safety net is appropriate in a civilized society. When the government focuses on these things, it assists the free-enterprise system.

But when a government that has overspent for years turns to tax increases instead of spending cuts simply for the sake of “fairness,” it weakens free enterprise, lowers opportunity and impoverishes us in many ways.

Read the whole thing here.

One thought on “Toward a Perfect Opportunity Society

  1. I’m sure you don’t need another example of the power of fairness in persuasion, but consider the segregationists’ “separate but equal” slogan. I grew up in the segregated South where good middle class folks could never bring themselves to argue that it was acceptable to be unfair to a black pupil. They had to give lip service to the myth of equality even though no intelligent person could believe that a blatantly racist system was truly equal. Such is the power of fairness in causing the human mind to suppress reason.

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