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What Does Jordan Peterson Mean by “Equality of Opportunity”?

February 19, 2018 in Economics

By Ryan Bourne

Ryan Bourne

The psychologist Professor Jordan Peterson is usually
exceptionally careful with his definitions and language. So it is
with trepidation that I challenge his commitment to “equality
of opportunity” as a desirable goal.

Yet in an otherwise excellent and thought-provoking EconTalk podcast with Russ
he repeated the assertion from his Channel 4 interview
with Cathy Newman that “equality of opportunity” is a
desirable societal ambition.

Perhaps I have missed some lecture where he has elucidated
further. But if listeners like me who share his disdain for outcome
egalitarianism are confused, it is worth pinning down exactly what
he has in mind. For it seems to me that someone who truly rejects
outcome equality should also regard “equality of
opportunity” as either trivially self-evident or wrong.

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy definition of
“equality of opportunity”
starts by suggesting it
is the opposite of a caste society. It clearly would be undesirable
if all positions in life were determined purely by social status.
We want a dynamic society where individuals are able to rise and
fall to a large extent according to competitive processes, and for
hard work and talent to be a route to success.

Yet in truth “equality of opportunity,” as commonly
articulated, is much stronger than favouring a society where hard
work and talent can affect our positions in hierarchies.
Indeed, the very last part of the Stanford definition indicates the
potential expansiveness of the idea. It reads (my emphasis):

“In contrast, when equality of opportunity prevails, the
assignment of individuals to places in the social hierarchy is
determined by some form of competitive process, and all
members of society are eligible to compete on equal

What does “equal terms” mean here? Is it the idea
that all people should be able to use their talents, absent
coercive state-imposed constraints, to pursue their ambitions? Is
it that any state actions or policies should treat all individuals
as equal under the law? Maybe, but sadly neither of these concepts
represent how it is used in wider political parlance.

No, the reason I oppose “equality of opportunity” as
an aim is because the “equal terms” part of that
sentence is instead widely used to justify a vast array of
government interventions, which often hinder the ambitions and
preferences of free people in ways very similar to the pursuit of
equality of outcome.

In UK debates, I have heard it said that the existence of
inheritances mean children do not compete on equal terms, as
justification for 100% inheritance taxes. Some claim that pushy
parents bestow unfair educational advantages on their children as
justification for rigid, state-imposed comprehensivisation …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Charles Blow: The Russians Exploited America's Racist Past to Swing the Election for Trump

February 19, 2018 in Blogs

By Ilana Novick, AlterNet

They used legitimate grievances to force young black men and women to lay down their best weapon: the vote.

The Russian government exploited America's shameful racist history in order to elect a virulently racist man as President. As Charles Blow writes in his Monday column, “the black vote was specifically under attack, from sources foreign and domestic. And this attack appeared to be particularly focused on young black activist-minded voters passionate about social justice: The 'Woke Vote'.”"

“The tragic irony,” he continues, “is that these young people, many of whom already felt like the American political system was failing them, were encouraged to lay down one of the most powerful political tools they have, thereby ensuring an amplification of their own oppressions.”

Of course, Blow is quick to admit, there was plenty of opposition to Hillary Clinton from this group of voters during the Democratic primaries. “Michelle Alexander, author of the acclaimed book “The New Jim Crow” — which has attained near Bible stature among some social justice activists — laid out a strong philosophical argument for “why Hillary Clinton doesn’t deserve the black vote.”

The Russian disinformation campaign used the legitimate grievances Alexander refers to, like Hillary Clinton's infamous “superpredators” comment in references to young black criminals, and other economic and crime policies enacted during the Clinton administration, which Bill Clinton may have written, but Hillary Clinton publically supported, to encourage black voters to stay home on Election Day. 

The evidence is in the indictments for the 13 Russian operatives announced by the Office of Special Counsel Robert Mueller on Friday: “On or about October 16, 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators used the Instagram account ‘Woke Blacks’ to post the following message: ‘Particular hype and hatred for Trump is misleading the people and forcing Blacks to vote Killary. We cannot resort to the lesser of two devils. Then we’d surely be better off without voting AT ALL.’ “

This sentiment, Blow reminds us, was directly echoed by the Trump campaign: 

Just before the election, a senior Trump campaign official told Bloomberg Businessweek, “We have three major voter …read more