“If we were highly idealistic, we might say rising living standards are not enough: A child’s background should have nothing to do with where the child ends up,” suggests David Schmidtz in Elements of Justice, p 126. It’s an idea he ultimately does not endorse.
And he shouldn’t. Every feasible method of achieving the goal is also perfectly repugnant. We could ensure that background and outcome were entirely unrelated by making everyone exactly equal, or by distributing wealth and social station by lottery, or by empowering some sort of vast wealth-confiscation bureau that was only permitted to act at random. But I can’t think of too many other ways to do it.
So why does it seem intuitive to call this an “idealistic” project? Why does it have the appeal, however momentary, that it does? Why, when we want to exclude certain forms of person-stunting, to do we so often reach for the ideal of equality of opportunity?