Must-Read: Noah Smith: Don’t Give Up on Equality of Opportunity

Must-Read: Noah Smith: Don’t Give Up on Equality of Opportunity: “The purpose of an ideal of equality isn’t to serve as a blueprint for the creation of a utopia…

…but to nudge us in the direction of policies that will make society feel more fair. And it’s here that I think equality of opportunity shines. What the focus on opportunity has consistently led to is prioritizing children… more resources have been devoted to education, child-care assistance and childhood health. This has been good, because children’s mental and emotional plasticity means that their lives can be improved a lot with early intervention. Universal public education is one of government’s greatest successes, and it’s an institution that has been adopted in almost every society. Public health is certainly another. Nowadays, the emphasis on child care has led to policies like paid parental leave, which other developed countries have already adopted. Equality of opportunity also entails more government investment, instead of consumption…. Redistribution is important. But during the last two centuries, government has been at its most effective when it concentrated on investment and on children. Medicare and Social Security Disability payments have eased the suffering of many poor, elderly and ill people. But schools, roads, electrical grids, public health and research transformed the country…. Thus, let’s hold on to the notion of equality of opportunity. For all its faults, it has been very good at keeping the country pointed in the right policy directions.

May 24, 2016


Brad DeLong
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