Liberals And Leftists Again

Joe Miller has more.

Share this

I'm so lucky to live in a

I'm so lucky to live in a country where "liberal" means your "classical liberal"! Too bad they are so few of them around...

Can you believe that liberalism.ro is mostly populated with minarchists and libertarians? :-)

Roughly, then, I take

Roughly, then, I take liberalism to consist of three main theses:

- Respect for individual autonomy.
- A commitment to equality of opportunity.
- State neutrality.

It occurs to me that #2 above is too limiting. There is no advantage to equality of opportunity. What is wanted is a maximization of opportunity, constrained by #1 and #3, and any other constraints that may turn out to be appropriate. In a market economy, the more opportunity that you have, and take advantage of, the better off I am likely to be.

Regards, Don

I fully agree with Don. I'd

I fully agree with Don. I'd be much happier with number 2 if it said something along the lines of Opposition to Denial of Opportunity. Hopefully some one else can think of a less clunky way to say that.

I think a good distinction between liberals and leftists is that liberals want everyone to have as much opportunity as possible, while leftists want to deny opportunities that they feel are unfair.

I'd also prefer if state neutrality was rephrased as Commitment to Systematic Equality, or commitment to equal law for all.

Don, There is no advantage

Don,

There is no advantage to equality of opportunity. What is wanted is a maximization of opportunity, constrained by #1 and #3, and any other constraints that may turn out to be appropriate. In a market economy, the more opportunity that you have, and take advantage of, the better off I am likely to be.

I'm not sure that I see how that last part follows. Suppose that there is some law that specifies that only people with the last name of Miller can open a new business. That means that we Millers have all sorts of opportunities available to us; in fact, it works out quite nicely for me, since every time there is a need for some new business, I'm one of just a (relative) handful of people who might be able to fill that need. I'm not sure, though, how that could possibly make you better off.

Treating people the same way seems to me to actually follow from respecting people's autonomy. Once I tell people in group A that they are not allowed to do X while everyone else to do all the Xing that they want, then I would think that I'd be violating the autonomy of everyone in group A.

Equality of opportunity doesn't have to mean limiting your opportunities. It's perfectly consistent with maximizing your opportunities. All that equality of opportunity says is that whatever opportunities are open to you have to be open to me as well.

Joe, In a market economy,

Joe,

In a market economy, the governing assumption is that (a) it is based on individual property rights that are (b) secured by the rule of law and (c) mediated by voluntary transactions of value for value.

Thus in said economy if you have more opportunities for action and then take advantage of them, you are (by definition) exchanging more value for value and thus making everyone (in toto) better off by increasing wealth.

Obviously that is a very broad sketch but that is what, IMO, Don was aiming at with his last sentence. Also, Don's provisos are that while the prime goal is *maximizing* opportunity, that maximization is constrained by a respect for individual autonomy and state neutrality.

Thus your counterexample doesn't quite apply - if there were such a law passed that only Millers can open new businesses that clearly violates #3 (state neutrality), as would the other one. Neither speak to whether or not Don's goal is the correct one (maximizing opportunity given liberal prior constraints).

It would seem to me that a difference between equality of opportunity and maximizing opportunity is that the former would imply a class/group-based prior restraint of some individuals to 'equalize' opportunities of others; that leads us back to Matt's point about being "antipoverty" v. "antiwealth".

I think ultimately its a case of talking past each other. In a system of opportunity maximization that is liberally constrained, systematic differences in opportunity (versus endogamous, I suppose) would be minimized, so in essence you'd have general equality of opportunity. Also, much depends on what opportunity you are maximizing- total opportunity (how would one calculate that, after all) or individual; and even if individual, is it maximizing the average, maximizing the minimum, etc.

My own personal bias lets me see how you can get EoO from MoO but I'm not sure you'll reliably get there going the other direction.

Joe, Equality of opportunity

Joe,

Equality of opportunity doesn’t have to mean limiting your opportunities. It’s perfectly consistent with maximizing your opportunities. All that equality of opportunity says is that whatever opportunities are open to you have to be open to me as well.

It must be indicative of a difference of our worldviews that this is not anywhere near as reassuring to me as you may have intended.

Regards, Don