A book I am reading -- The Fourth Great Awakening and the Future of Egalitarianism by Robert Fogel -- raises an interesting question about the role of equality in the United States. Over the 1900s, there was a tendency for Americans to support equality of condition as the centerpiece of American egalitarianism. That is, popular culture endorsed redistribution of riches from the top half of the income distribution to the bottom half. Fogel argues that the entitlement programs spanning from The New Deal to The Great Society represented this trend of American support for equality of condition.
Since The Great Society, there has been a political/religious movement (which Fogel calls The Fourth Great Awakening) that pushes equality of opportunity as the means of attaining a more egalitarian American society. Equality of opportunity presupposes that everyone should have the same opportunities to succeed, but that the resulting economic conditions reflect the choices people made (and can be as unequal as people choose). In fact, inequality of condition can give people appropriate incentives to put more effort in where society needs more effort.
That brings me to the poll question of the week.
What role should equality play in America?
(a) We should support equality of condition
(b) We should support equality of opportunity
(c) We should support both
(d) Neither is feasible
Obviously, this is a normative question, so let your values be your guide. The poll is on the sidebar, and it is open for a week. Please vote early and often. Tell your friends to vote. I'm interested in seeing what you have to say.