The Role Of History In Making Today's Policies.

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June 1, 2023

“The dichotomy between liberty and equality has remained the question most relevant in the American experiment. Dr. Davenport and Dr. Lloyd give us the best chronological examination of the question.”

—J. R. Carman, founder, New Jersey Constitutional Republicans

Equality of Opportunity: A Century of Debate

When we advocate for equality of opportunity in the United States, what do we mean? Do we depend on our foundational principles for guidance, or should the federal government take a more active role in pushing for equity? Liberals and conservatives have been arguing this dilemma for more than a century. The historical debates offer illuminating background for the question: Where do we go from here?

Authors examine the following topics:

  • How the framers of the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution understood the notion of equality as it applied to America’s citizens
  • How the ideals of opportunity were shaped by events in the nineteenth century, leading to the Progressive movement
  • The impact of the Progressive ideas on policies of the twentieth century, including Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal and Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty
  • The debate between Herbert Hoover and Roosevelt—as expressed through their speeches and writings—on their different approaches to the question of equality of opportunity
  • Ronald Reagan’s response to Johnson’s Great Society and the conservative counterrevolution
  • How the debates of previous centuries have shaped discussions today about social equity

About the Book

CONTACT:  Barbara Arellano: 650-725-5630,

About the Hoover Institution Press

Hoover Institution Press is the publishing arm of the Hoover Institution. Dedicated to informing public policy decisions and communicating key ideas, the press publishes the works of Hoover’s fellows, working groups, and affiliated scholars. Concepts that were important to Herbert Hoover—private enterprise, personal freedom, representative government, peace, and safeguarding the American system—continue to animate our work. Areas emphasized are economics, national security, education, energy and the environment, health care, history, law and regulation, and political philosophy.



For Immediate Release

Contact: Jeffrey Marschner


June 1, 2023

Hoover Institution Press Publishes Equality of Opportunity: A Century of Debate by David Davenport and Gordon Lloyd

Hoover Institution (Stanford, CA) – The Hoover Institution has published Equality of Opportunity: A Century of Debate by David Davenport and Gordon Lloyd, a work that examines – from America’s founding to today – the discourse over the definition of equality of opportunity and the government’s role in ensuring it.

Davenport and Lloyd use original sources and historical reinterpretations to revisit three great debates and their implications for discussions today.

Davenport and Lloyd first revisit the Founding era of the American nation, when equality of opportunity was understood as a question of securing rights through limited government. They then travel to the early 1900s, when Progressives argued that the limited role of government advocated by the Founders had left in place vast inequalities in living conditions. The authors continue by examining how this divide played out during the era of Roosevelt’s New Deal and, later in the century, with Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty and Ronald Reagan’s rebuttal to it. 

According to the authors, equality of opportunity is a long-held American ideal, but this is not a term the Founders used. They felt that equality, broadly speaking, was a natural right that the government should defend and protect. It was not until the twentieth century—with the closing of the frontier and all the social mobility it portended—that equality of opportunity was considered anew, as something that had been lost.

To others, it is more a question of economic and social circumstances and the limits those may place on one’s ability to make life choices. Soon this debate turns to the role of government: setting forth and defending individual rights and the freedom to choose; or creating a more level playing field, with education and policies designed to achieve economic and social equality.

Davenport and Lloyd imagine James Madison, the father of the Constitution, arguing the case against Woodrow Wilson, one of our first progressive presidents. This framework effectively sets the stage for understanding the differing views about equality of opportunity today.

Acclaim for Equality of Opportunity

 “The dichotomy between liberty and equality has remained the question most relevant in the American experiment. Dr. Davenport and Dr. Lloyd give us the best chronological examination of the question.”

—J. R. Carman, founder, New Jersey Constitutional Republicans

“[Davenport and Lloyd’s] unique ability to use language as a lens through which to understand American history and current events makes this a fascinating book on many levels.”

—Pete Peterson, Braun Family Dean’s Chair, Pepperdine School of Public Policy

“A must-read for students of all ages who want to understand the ‘equality of opportunity’ versus ‘equality of results’ debate today.”

—Cathy Gillespie, CEO, Constituting America

About the Authors

David Davenport is a research fellow emeritus at the Hoover Institution, senior fellow at the Ashbrook Center, and former president and professor of public policy and law at Pepperdine University.

Gordon Lloyd was the Dockson Emeritus Professor of Public Policy at Pepperdine University, senior fellow at the Ashbrook Center, and the creator of

For coverage opportunities, contact Jeffrey Marschner, 202-760-3187,

Things I Heard Gordon Say...


As you will know from an earlier post, my coauthor and friend Gordon Lloyd passed away recently.  Many wonderful essays and posts have been written about him, one of my favorites by our friend Steve Ealy at “Law and Liberty,” a site where Gordon authored a number of important essays.

                It occurred to me that what I might uniquely add would be a few of Gordon’s favorite sayings.  As coauthors we spent hundreds of hours together talking.  In fact, that was the primary reason we wrote together:  to spend time with each other.  These Gordonian utterances help us understand the man from his own lips.

  • “Go Back to Come Back”—The title of this blog has long been Gordon’s approach to policy questions of the day. Where can we go back in history—most often to the Founding period—to understand the background of today’s pressing  issues?  He was especially the “go back” man of our team with his richer understanding of history.  I’m still debating whether I can continue our blog without his “go back” expertise.
  • “It’s hard to love an ugly founding”—Several have observed that Gordon was a leading expert on the Founding period of the U.S., possessing an encyclopedic knowledge of the Constitutional Convention with all its participants and machinations.  He was saddened by modern efforts to reinterpret the founding in such a way as to make it seem politically incorrect and ugly.  Gordon deeply regretted that generations of young people were being taught an ugly founding—a narrative of property owners, wealth, slavery and racism—that would prevent them from loving or even respecting their country.
  • “A MORE perfect union.”  Following on #2 above, Gordon was quick to admit that the Founding, and indeed, the country was not perfect.  Slavery, in his view, was an obvious flaw.  But he constantly reminded us that the Founders had not given us a perfect union, but a more perfect union and that it was up to us to continue to perfect it.
  • “The cool, deliberate sense of the community over time”—To Gordon, this was what policy and governance were all about: not the passions of the day, not a weighty 5-4 Supreme Court decision dropping out of the blue, but rather finding the deliberate sense of the community over time.  He had his own annotated version of The Federalist ever at hand, with this language taken from Federalist 63.
  • “A proud immigrant.”—Born in Wales, reared in Trinidad, educated in part in Canada, Gordon felt it was significant that he was an immigrant who had come to love his new country. In our partnership, I was always the one disappointed that the American system was not working better while he was Mr. Optimist.  He felt it was immigrants, more than the native-born, who truly appreciated and actively pursued the American dream.
  • “Conversation and deliberation”—This was how everything worked best in Gordon’s world, whether teaching a seminar, writing a book, or running a government. Modeled on the founding, things work best, he felt, when there is conversation, deliberation and compromise.  This would be his constant refrain in this hyper-partisan world in which we have come to live.
  • “A Four Act Play and a Christy Painting”—Gordon was perhaps the leading expert on the Constitutional Convention and he most enjoyed sharing it with teachers and others through websites he created. Because he was always researching and learning, he could update websites in a way that an author cannot update his book.  His favorite ways of portraying and teaching the Convention were as a four-act play and through reference to Howard Chandler Christy’s painting of the signing of the Constitution.  Gordon understood that history is story telling and that art helps tell a story.  The Ashbrook Center through its website has much of Gordon’s favorite work. 
  • “Jesus saves, Esposito scores on the rebound”—Gordon was fun to work with and also a big hockey fan. When we worked together, I generally kept notes from our conversations and every once in awhile, I had to slow him down while I captured and saved our work.  “Jesus saves,” I would say, “and Esposito scores on the rebound,” he would add. 

I could go on, but these are the gems I recall from our 20 plus years of writing and working together.  We became best of friends, not just coauthors and colleagues, and I miss him dearly.

David Davenport

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Dr. Gordon Lloyd, RIP

The School of Public Policy is saddened to announce the passing of Professor Emeritus Gordon Lloyd, who passed away on April 30, 2023, at his home in Malibu. Lloyd was the inaugural Robert and Katheryn Dockson Professor of Public Policy and the founding faculty member at SPP. An accomplished author, intellectual, and constitutional scholar, Lloyd developed the curriculum that serves as the school’s foundation.

The author and coauthor of numerous books on the American founding and sole author of a book on the political economy of the New Deal, he also has numerous articles, reviews, and opinion-editorials to his credit. His latest co-authored book with David Davenport, former president of Pepperdine University, is titled Equality of Opportunity: A Century of Debate and is due for release June 1, 2023. Lloyd’s other books include How Public Policy Became War with David Davenport, The Bill of Rights: Core DocumentsThe Constitutional Convention: Core DocumentsRugged Individualism: Dead or Alive? with David Davenport, The American Founding: Core DocumentsDebates in the Federal Convention of 1787The Two Narratives of Political Economy with Nicholas Capaldi, The New Deal & Modern American Conservatism: A Defining Rivalry with David Davenport, and The Two Faces of Liberalism: How the Hoover-Roosevelt Debate Shapes the 21st Century, among many others. 

He was the creator, with the help of the Ashbrook Center, of four highly regarded websites on the origin of the Constitution and the Constitutional Convention. He served on the National Advisory Council for the Walter and Leonore Annenberg Presidential Learning Center through the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation, was a Bill of Rights Institute network scholar, and a senior fellow at the Ashbrook Center. He was a frequent contributor to Law & Liberty and Liberty Fund.

At Pepperdine, Lloyd created and taught the foundational course Roots of American Order: What is Public Policy? as well as numerous electives in political economy, statecraft, race and the Constitution, social regulation, and the New Deal. He led the annual Constitution Day lecture given at SPP and the Reagan Library, and developed a short-course series on capitalism vs. socialism. Lloyd developed one of the internet’s most robust educational websites on America’s founding with extensive research available to students and teachers on topics including: The American FoundingThe New DealConstitutional Law Cases: Rehnquist CourtIntellectual Foundations of Political Economy, and the French Revolution. He has received many teaching, scholarly, and leadership awards including admission to Phi Beta Kappa and the Howard A. White Award for Teaching Excellence at Pepperdine University.

“Combining a prodigious mind with a heart for students, Professor Lloyd taught hundreds of SPP students about the enduring importance of the Constitution and the relevance of America’s founding debates to today’s policy issues,” says Pete Peterson, dean and Braun Family Dean’s Chair of SPP. “While we have lost one of SPP’s ‘founding fathers,’ his legacy as a scholar committed to civil deliberation will live on.”

Students often remember Lloyd by the pocket Constitution he would hand out on the first day of class—a physical reminder of the founding principles of this country—but also the wisdom and knowledge that Lloyd instilled in each one of them. “Gordon was a teacher unlike any of us had ever known,” says alumnus Jason Ross (MPP ’01). “He brought us into a conversation with one another and with the greatest minds in history. He also showed us how to have a conversation—in good faith and good humor, serious but with a spirit of friendship. Gordon never failed to bring out the best in his students and anyone around him. All who had the good fortune to meet him are better for it.”

Born in England, Lloyd spent his childhood in Trinidad and attended McGill University in Quebec where he earned his bachelor of arts degree in economics and political science. Lloyd gained his US citizenship during the completion of his PhD and a master of arts degree in government at Claremont Graduate School. He also completed all the course work toward a doctorate in economics at the University of Chicago.

He is survived by his wife, Angela; son, Neil, and his significant other, Margaret, and their children, Nicole and Jack; son, Derek and his wife, Jackie, and their children, Dylan and Jackson; stepdaughter, Stephanie, and her husband, Matt, and their children, Ella and Lily.

For those who wish to send condolences to the family, please send cards, notes, or letters to: Angela Lloyd, c/o Pepperdine University, School of Public Policy, 24255 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, CA 90263. 

News of a memorial service will be shared as information becomes available.

Go Back To The Great Depression To Understand Federal Climate Change Policy

We were offering a Saturday seminar on the Great Depression and the New Deal to high school history teachers in Chicago, showing them how to use primary documents to improve their teaching.  They had read three speeches by Franklin Roosevelt and three by Herbert Hoover, framing the debate.  One participant raised her hand and said, “I used to think Herbert Hoover was just a stick in the mud who didn’t want to help anyone.  Now I see him asking an important question:  Do we need to change the entire American system to address an economic emergency?” 

                That is often the right question to ask when the government starts expanding its power and activity in the face of a perceived crisis or emergency.  President Barack Obama’s chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, captured that inclination of government when he said, “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste, it’s an opportunity to do things that you think you could not do before.” 

                To understand turning ordinary policy into a crisis, we can “Go Back” to Franklin Roosevelt’s dramatic growth of an alphabet soup set of new federal agencies under his control, his issuance of a presidential record of executive orders, and his expansion of the federal government’s role in economic regulation and social policy, all in the name of addressing the Great Depression.  As our high school teacher put it, he used the Great Depression to change the whole American system.  And he captured how many feel about climate change today when he said, of the economic situation then, the American people want “action, and action now.” 

Other presidents have likewise expanded government, and especially executive power, by declaring wars on domestic problems such as poverty, crime, drugs, terror and the like.  Meanwhile, presidents, governors and mayors declare all manners of emergencies, largely so they can expand their power and eliminate the checks and balances and deliberation of normal government.

The recent announcement that the federal government would now manage the dwindling supply of water in the Colorado River if the three states most affected by it could not agree is a clear signal that President Biden is moving toward crisis government in the name of climate change.  This follows several sets of executive orders Biden has signed to respond to the “emergency” and the “clear and present danger to the United States” of climate change.  (White House Fact Sheet, July 20, 2022).  Only a 6-3 Supreme Court decision stood in the way of the EPA exercising broad powers to curb planet-warming pollution from power plants.  Congress, the Court reminded, has that power and did not delegate it to the EPA.  (West Virginia v. EPA, June 30, 2022). 

Climate change is now blamed for pretty much everything that goes wrong, from changes in weather to national security and even income tax collections by the IRS.  In addition to studies and debates about climate change itself, we also need to be debating how the government goes about addressing it.  This is the debate and deliberation that is lost when presidents race toward government by emergency, crisis and war.  There is a role for local and regional governments to play, along with scientific development and market incentives, all of which need not be taken over by the federal government.  Climate change requires all hands on deck, not federalizing all hands under the president.

The big question is whether President Biden will formally declare climate change a national emergency, which knocks down more checks and balances, eliminates deliberation, and puts the president in charge of an even more powerful and accelerated federal government.  Congress needs to step up, as the Supreme Court has done, and say that this is not just a matter of presidential power and initiative.  We ought not change the entire American system again to address climate change. 


Go Back to Come Back on Equality of Opportunity:

Welcome to our new blog, “Go Back to Come Back.”  We are scholars who have worked and written together now for 20 years.  We have co-authored 4 books, numerous book chapters and essays, and too many newspaper columns to count.  What we have learned, and are eager to share with you, is the value of going back into history to learn about the origins and development of policy questions in the air today, then come back to apply what history teaches us to our current problems and questions.

 For example, we have recently completed a book manuscript on equality of opportunity, something that has been front and center in the many social justice debates of the 2020s.  Where did equality of opportunity come from, is it still an adequate goal today, or does it need to be replaced by something else such as equity or equality of results?

 We begin, as we usually do, with the Founding period and, in this case, the Declaration of Independence which famously stated that “all men (people) are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”  The Founders believed equality was a natural right that every American possessed and the role of limited government was to protect that right. 

 But a century later, the Progressives came along and said that was no longer sufficient, if it ever was.  With the closing of the American frontier in 1890, people could no longer move West and find free land.  With industrialization, there were larger economic forces at work and people were moving to the cities.  It was high time, Progressives argued, that government play a larger role in regulating the economy and making certain people really did have equality of opportunity.  In short, the Founders thought equality was something people moved from and Progressives thought it was something government moved toward. 

All this came to a head in 1932 when President Herbert Hoover ran for reelection touting his “rugged individualism” coupled with “equality of opportunity” and his opponent, Franklin Roosevelt arguing that “equality of opportunity as we have known it no longer exists.”  In the throes of the Great Depression, people voted for Franklin Roosevelt and his New Deal promises that government would protect “the forgotten man.”  Roosevelt greatly expanded the regulation of big business and the economy, and instituted Social Security to help protect people’s equality of opportunity.

 In the 1960s, President Lyndon Johnson thought even Roosevelt’s approach did not go far enough.  He said that it wasn’t enough to get people to the starting line of the race for opportunity, but some people needed help being able to compete.  Johnson’s “Great Society” instituted a War on Poverty as well as major new federal investments in education, job training, and civil rights.  He sought to assure not only legal equality but some measure of economic and social equality as well.  Some even argued that Johnson moved the goal line away from opportunity to equal outcomes. 

 Not until the 1980s did a president, Ronald Reagan, tack back in the direction of less government and more freedom of individual opportunity.  He cut taxes and government programs, arguing that leaving money in people’s pockets and the freedom to use it as they wish was how you really created what he called “an opportunity society.”               

This is the very debate we are having today.  The American principle has long been equality of opportunity, not results, but is that still sufficient with so much inequality?  Does government need to do more or less?  Should government be in the business of equalizing wealth or income, as some have suggested?  Or is there room for both individual freedom and government action in the equality arena? 

Fred Hoyle pointed out, things are the way they are because they were the way they were.  Understanding equality from the Founders through three consequential presidencies should help you better understand the equality debates today.  We have our own view—which tends toward limited government emphasizing legal equality and a hand up, especially through education—but, having gone back into history, you can come back and reach your own conclusions. 

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