For Immediate Release

Contact: Jeffrey Marschner

202-760-3187, jmarsch@stanford.edu

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 Americanfounding.org.

For coverage opportunities, contact Jeffrey Marschner, 202-760-3187, jmarsch@stanford.edu.

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