“Daniel” over at Crooked Timber offers this comment about the equal-opportunity vs. equal-outcome debate:

I’ve never received (not for want of asking) a satisfactory answer from anyone who talks about “equality of opportunity” to the following two questions (also inspired by my time at business school, which I am coming to believe may have been less wasted than it seemed to be at the time)

1. What’s the point of doing anything if you’re not going to check whether it worked or not?
2. How do you find out whether a course of action worked or not, other than by the results?

The answer to question one is obvious: of course you have to check whether it worked or not. Question two is a good example of weasel wording: when he says “whether it worked or not” he’s talking about equal opportunity, but by the time he gets to “by the results” he’s talking about equal outcomes. He’s assuming an answer in the course of asking the question. One could measure whether opportunity was becoming more or less equal in a variety of ways other than by measuring outcomes. The most scientific, probably, would be to do a statistical analysis of the factors contributing to outcomes. If opportunity were becoming more equal, the sum of other factors would necessarily increase. Voila! Now you have a measurement of whether equal-opportunity programs are working, and an easy answer to a thoroughly specious question.