How Equal Should Opportunities Be?

Like liberals, conservatives recognize that there is an opportunity gap between the children of the privileged and those of the underprivileged. All can see that the former not only have more opportunities available to them, but they are also better equipped to seize them. It is not the fact that some have more than others that bothers conservatives, however; it is that some do not have enough. Conservatives are concerned that America is failing to meet the basic threshold of opportunity that it should promise to all. A conservative opportunity agenda should therefore focus on expanding opportunity rather than shrinking the opportunity gap. Without a well-formed character and a belief that hard work pays off in the long run, most of the opportunities that America continues to offer cannot be converted into accomplishments. Parents, schools, and society at large have a duty to ingrain in children and publicly extol the virtues necessary to pursue the American Dream: patience, delayed gratification, self-restraint, grit, determination, fortitude, and foresight. In part because virtue cannot be quantified and measured, it tends to be ignored in the endless public-policy debates on equality of opportunity. But there can be no discussion of opportunity without a discussion of the virtues necessary to seize opportunity.

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