August 2014 Article
The Power of Opportunity
The United States of America celebrated its Independence Day last month. This holiday recognizes that two hundred and thirty eight years ago or so, the residents of that land decided to revolt against monarchy because of an idea. This idea was that a government system, where citizens choose who will govern, is preferable to one that is ruled by a king. These people were so motivated by this idea that they fought against England, the super power of the day, to achieve it. And, thus was born the American democratic system. Many other countries commemorate their date of independence from one form of government or another and, other countries have seen their governments evolve in more organic ways. Regardless of how a particular government was formed, no government system is perfect. It is unlikely that there will ever be consensus on one ideal form of government. As long as people are different, governments will follow suit. When it comes to governments, one size does not fit all, and there is nothing wrong with that. However, there is one basic human right that all governments should provide to its citizens: opportunity.
I have always had a preference for limited government. Not zero government, but minimal government. I recognize the need and role of government. I benefitted from government programs and loans to help pay for my college education. Society also benefits from government services such as regulatory and quality control of food, medicines and mass transportation. I also recognize the important role that government can play in providing national security and defense. However, I embrace individual liberties and restrictions on the involvement of government in decisions that pertain to personal preferences in life and business. Of course not everyone sees the responsibility of government from this perspective. I have had the opportunity to visit, live, and work in a variety of countries. This experience has permitted me an appreciation and understanding of governments and people from outside my own sphere of influence. The fact is that there are many forms of government throughout the world today including variations of democracy. Democracy in India is different from democracy in Canada. Democracy in Russia is different to that of Israel. In the USA, citizens are not required to vote. In Brazil it is required by law that every citizen vote. Even China, Iran, and Vietnam have their own versions of democracy. Countries like Saudi Arabia and The United Arab Emirates, North Korea, and Cuba have their own preferred forms of government.
Governments differ administratively on what services to provide to its citizen’s. For some the priority is a strong economy, for others it is jobs, for many still it may be security, healthcare, or education. The argument over which government services are most important is also difficult to resolve. But, there is a service that most, if not all, governments can agree to provide for its citizens: opportunity. Opportunity - The dictionary describes it as, “a situation or condition favorable for attainment of a goal.” The minimum guaranteed service to every citizen on the planet should be an environment where their chosen goals can be attained, in other words, an environment of opportunity; opportunity to improve, to evolve, to think, and to create. This idea may seem overly simplistic, even idealistic. However, we have seen and continue to see examples in countries around the world where hopelessness, poverty, crime, violence, and war are born out of the lack of true opportunity to improve one’s circumstances.
Not everyone is born with the same conditions in life and no government can guarantee equal success for its citizens. However, governments can establish an environment of equal opportunity. The individual citizen can decide how best to use this opportunity or even if they are inclined to use it at all. The sincerity of the government’s commitment to true opportunity breeds hope, and hopes breed a dynamic, creative, and loyal citizenry. Without universal opportunity, a government only hurts itself and stifles the creativity, ideas, and motivation of its citizens. The resulting deficiency of ideas and motivation will significantly diminish the development of new businesses along with the jobs that these new businesses create. This is not a government guarantee of a better life, but a commitment by the government to provide the infrastructure and environment that allows citizens the opportunity to a better their life.
Opportunity also means access. Access to quality education, access to quality public transportation, and access to capital to create businesses. Regardless of the country, culture, or system of government, the nation that embraces and implements measures for providing sincere opportunity for every citizen, takes an important step towards sustainable growth of its middle class, an expansion of its internal markets, while, at the same time, winning the respect of the community of nations.