Justin Trudeau and Equality of Opportunity

Justin Trudeau speaks at the University of Waterloo

(Originally appearing at LvMIC.)

Justin Trudeau is the perceived front-runner for the leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada. On Saturday, he released a public statement outlining some of his proposed policy initiatives. In this statement, he asserts that his party “must be a party of principle.” More specifically, it must be a party of enforced “equality of opportunity.” According to Trudeau:

The greatest of these principles is equality of opportunity. It is key to all the others. To be successful, we Liberals need to be the voice for the millions of Canadians who share this belief, who believe that in a fair society, hard work should pay off.

Later, he writes:

Leadership is about setting priorities based on principle. I believe that there is no more important principle than equality of opportunity — and the progress it generates — for individual Canadians, and for Canada.

Superficially, espousing the idea of “equality of opportunity” appears to be a noble endeavour. Because of this, it is politically expedient for Trudeau to brand himself in this way. However, a deeper consideration of what this form of coercive egalitarianism entails reveals its utter wrongness.

First of all, it is obvious that persons differ in countless ways. As Robert W. Blake described, a person “is limited as to height, weight, strength, health, intelligence, beauty, virtue, inheritance, environment, everything.” In short, all persons are fundamentally unequal. Because of this, it follows that persons will have different opportunities.  For example, irrespective of my ability to cajole others on the merits of a fully-loaded Audi convertible, I am not about to be selected as a Canadian International Auto Show booth babe. By endorsing government enforced equality of opportunity, Trudeau is undertaking the hopeless task of advocating in favour of a legislated reversal of the human condition.

Good luck with that.

Additionally, a government policy of equality of opportunity subverts the principle of justice. Specifically, it substitutes equality “under the law” with “equality by law.” Instead of offering equal protection to unequal persons, it punishes and rewards persons on the basis that they are unequal. F.A. Hayek, in his book The Constitution of Liberty, wrote:

From the fact that people are very different it follows that, if we treat them equally, the result must be inequality in their actual position, and that the only way to place them in an equal position would be to treat them differently. Equality before the law and material equality are therefore not only different but are in conflict with each other; and we can achieve either one or the other, but not both at the same time.

Moreover, if equality of opportunity is such an important principle, why confine it to monetary matters such as redistributive taxation? For example, Trudeau could also improve equality of opportunity by legislating that registered Conservatives with perfect eyesight donate one of their superfluous eyes to a blind countryman. After all, it can certainly be argued that the blind person needs it more.

It might be objected that legislated equality of opportunity is different than equality of condition or outcome. On the contrary, Alexander Tabarrok has explained that this distinction is rather like the splitting of a hair. He writes:

In fact, equality of opportunity is nothing but equality of outcome applied at the beginning of life rather than throughout life. Both forms of equality are coercive and totalitarian. Taken seriously, equality of opportunity requires that all inheritance – monetary, genetic, and experiential – be abolished.

Or, as Roderick T. Long points out: “The difference between the two becomes increasingly blurred these days as inequality of outcome is taken as prima facie evidence of inequality of opportunity.”

Hans-Hermann Hoppe explained that wealth can be obtained “either through homesteading, production, and contracting, or else through the expropriation and exploitation of homesteaders, producers, or contractors.” Our choice is one of using economic means versus government means.

In his public statement, Trudeau mentions several ideas for establishing equality of opportunity in education. These include the continued subsidization of students and educational institutions through the Canada Student Loans program and the Research Granting councils as well as loan forgiveness for graduates whose income is not commensurate with their debt level. Picture the abundance of underwater degrees under this scenario.

All of these suggestions involve the use of government means. They amount to theft by majority vote.

Austrian Business Cycle theory helps explain our education system’s current mess. As credit expansion and government spending on education increases, it leads to malinvestment within this sector of the economy.  A boom ensues, which is necessarily followed by a bust. This jeopardizes the solvency of students, educational institutions, as well as the government. Ironically, it also has the potential to wreck the current education system for everyone.

Something tells me this isn’t exactly the kind of equality of opportunity that Trudeau has in mind.

  • Dexter1114

    Another good point that could be made in this article is how Pure Democracy itself impedes the rights and choices of others. It may be perceived as egalitarian or free when a country gets to vote or choose but it is also important to note what they are choosing. Example- We could leave gay marriage to a vote and say this is a matter for the provinces., which we have. Given that only 10% of people are actually gay, that gives the majourity -straight population, the advantage and what they are really voting for is control. Luckily gay marraige has been legalized but think about it…is this a legal issue? Who determined it was ok for you to have your freedom? It wasn’t you. Is the province your dictator or is it the federal government? Maybe the issue is that the government issues marriage licences. See we never have the freedom to choose what we want for ourselves without impeding the rights of another. We have to choose a dictator to dictate our views as the law of the land. I’m not convinced that Justin Trudeau is going to make us all equal just like I don’t think Conservatives will. Do his views come from a good place? Maybe but irrelevant to my freedom. I think Justin Trudeau should also read another F. A. Hayek book called “The Road To Serfdom.” Not saying to vote for someone else. Just want to shed light on the fact that saying “we’re all going to be equal” doesn’t really translate much into freedom. It’s a statement that lacks substance and reasoning and appeals to people emotionally. You want real change? Stop buying into this system on all sides.

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  • About Gregory Cummings

    Gregory Cummings writes about Canadian monetary and economic policy. His writing has been featured at the Ludwig von Mises Institute of Canada and the Ludwig von Mises Institute's Mises Daily publication. Read more.

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