Anyone can succeed, or everyone can?

I appreciated Ben Stein’s reflections on how inherited privilege has made his success possible (“Getting a Boost Up the Ladder of Success,” July 15). We need this kind of frankness in our public discourse on the roots of inequality and how to solve to it.

But in his proposal that rich professionals mentor poor kids, Mr. Stein misses a crucial analytical step. As long as our economy requires that a great number of people work depressing and insecure jobs for poverty wages, the rich will find ways to use their privilege to ensure that their children are not the ones to suffer. Wouldn’t you? As quickly as poor kids learn to do well on college admissions exams, the rich will enroll their kids in special courses to learn to do better.

Unequal access to success is only a symptom. The underlying problem is how few total slots are allotted for success and how many are allotted for want. This is why we must work to build an economy no longer dependent upon the underpayment and underemployment of large swaths of the populace, no matter how our lucky ones are chosen.

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About Al Bradbury

Labor journalist by day, singer-songwriter by night, Odonian at all hours.

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