life isn't fair

Anyone that has ever had a debate about the inequity in our education system has probably at least once had it end up at the ol’ “well, life isn’t fair” argument. I’ve found that this bit from Savage Inequalities to be particularly good for cutting through that bit of nonsense:

Many people, even those who view themselves as liberals on other issues, tend to grow indignant, even rather agitated, if invited to look closely at these inequalities. “Life isn’t fair,” one parent in Winnetka answered flatly when I pressed the matter. “Wealthy children also go to summer camp. All summer. Poor kids maybe not at all… Weatlhy children have the chance to go to Europe and have the access to good libraries, encylopedias, computers, better doctors, nicer homes. Some of my neighbors send their kids to schools like Exeter and Groton. Is government supposed to equalize these things as well?”

But government, of course, does not assign us to our homes, our summer camps, our doctors–or to Exeter. It does assign us to our public schools. Indeed, it forces us to go to them. Unless we have the wealth to pay for private education, we are compelled by law to go to public school–and to the public school in our district. Thus the state, by requiring attendance but refusing to require equity, effectively requires inequality. Compulsory inequity, perpetuated by state law, too frequently condemns our children to unequal lives.

Nice to see a refreshingly libertarian take on the reality of the situation in a book that is pretty much a holy text in liberal circles. You can’t just wave your hands and dismiss something as being inherently unfair if it is compulsory via authority derived from the state.