There’s nothing wrong in that, but not this way–
THE link between success and luck is stronger than many people think.
Analysis of this connection provides a useful framework for weighing the issues raised around the country at recent “tea parties,” where orators in high dudgeon bemoaned their “crippling” tax burdens…
Contrary to what many parents tell their children, talent and hard work are neither necessary nor sufficient for economic success…
Although people are often quick to ascribe their own success to skill and hard work, even those qualities entail heavy elements of luck. Debate continues about the degree to which personal traits are attributable to environmental and genetic factors. But whatever the true weights of each, these factors in combination explain nearly everything. People born with good genes and raised in nurturing families can claim little moral credit for their talent and industriousness. They were just lucky. And they are vastly more likely to succeed than people born without talent and raised in unsupportive environments…
There has never been a shortage of talented people willing to work hard for success — even in countries with top rates much higher than 50 percent. And the president’s proposal would not cause such a shortage in 2010.
It would, however, promote more efficient provision of public services, in much the same way that contingent fee contracts often promote more efficient provision of services in the private sector. For example, when lawyers are willing to waive fees unless their client wins, wrongfully injured accident victims often gain legal representation they couldn’t otherwise afford. Similarly, when government levies higher tax rates on the wealthy, we can provide public services that the wealthy and others greatly value but that would otherwise be beyond reach. Under such a tax system, the heavier tax bill becomes payable only if we’re lucky enough to end up among life’s biggest winners.
Financially successful tax protesters seem blissfully unaware of how incredibly fortunate they are…
Robert Frank, here, is trying to be “fair,” just like Rawls, and is correcting God’s innumerable “mistakes.” I wonder if he would also suggest that there be fairness in the distribution of eyes and kidneys? Prepare a registry of all the people in the world and pluck an eye and kidney from X and give it to Y because Y was unlucky enough to be born without them, or lose them in an accident? Luck! I do know that people can be “unlucky” – the most deserving people may not always be rewarded, but that’s no justification for practicing moral cannibalism – egalitarianism. Maybe Frank is writing to inflate the egos of those who believe that hard work is irrelevant and “luck” is all that matters. They can then go and stand up to a Gates or Tendulkar and say – you were lucky! Now hand over the booty!
Egalitarianism is a scourge, and Rawls is one of its most influential purveyors. The libertarian philosopher Robert Nozick took him on in his Anarchy, State and Utopia. But Ayn Rand didn’t bother. She did this instead-
Ayn Rand believed that philosophical ideas shape a society’s culture and politics. “The battle of philosophers is a battle for man’s mind,” she said. “If you do not understand their theories, you are vulnerable to the worst among them”. Though Rand had little regard for contemporary academic philosophers, she did write several articles about the discipline, commenting on philosophers’ methods as well as on their philosophical ideas.
In 1971, Harvard philosopher John Rawls published his Theory of Justice to great acclaim, and Rand responded in “An Untitled Letter.” Rawls’s book was notable for the baldness with which he stated his egalitarian principle of justice: that people may reap the benefits of their ability and effort only on terms that also benefit the least able. Rand of course denounced the altruist and egalitarian character of the principle, which she saw as a rationalization for envy—”the hatred of the good for being good.”
In her essay, Rand admitted that she had not read and did not intend to read Rawls’s book and declared that she should therefore be understood as commenting only on the positions ascribed to Rawls in Marshall Cohen’s lengthy review in the Sunday New York Times. Critics have attacked Rand for adopting that approach to the work, and it is a dubious technique even when made explicit. At the same time, however, critics of Rand have not acknowledged that she was nonetheless able to describe, precisely and essentially, Rawls’s method of argument. Nor have they acknowledged, though it is now a generation later, how presciently Rand was able to foresee the book’s future—drawing on nothing but a book review and her own profound understanding of the way bad ideas spread:
Kant originated the technique required to sell irrational notions to the men of a skeptical, cynical age who have formally rejected mysticism without grasping the rudiments of rationality. The technique is as follows: if you want to propagate an outrageously evil idea (based on traditionally accepted doctrines), your conclusion must be brazenly clear, but your proof unintelligible. Your proof must be so tangled a mess that it will paralyze a reader’s critical faculty—a mess of evasions, equivocations, obfuscations, circumlocutions, non sequiturs, endless sentences leading nowhere, irrelevant side issues, clauses, sub-clauses and sub-sub-clauses, a meticulously lengthy proving of the obvious, and big chunks of the arbitrary thrown in as self-evident, erudite references to sciences, to pseudo-sciences, to the never-to-be-sciences, to the untraceable and the unprovable—all of it resting on a zero: the absence of definitions. I offer in evidence The Critique of Pure Reason….
Within a few years of the book’s publication, commentators will begin to fill libraries with works analyzing, “clarifying” and interpreting its mysteries. Their notions will spread all over the academic map,….
Within a generation, the number of commentaries will have grown to such proportions that the original book will be accepted as a subject of philosophical specialization, requiring a lifetime of study—and any refutation of the book’s theory will be ignored or rejected, if unaccompanied by a full discussion of the theories of all the commentators, a task which no one will be able to undertake.
Which is exactly what has happened with A Theory of Justice.
Anyone who advocates egalitarianism cannot be “good.” You don’t have to commit murder to become “evil.” Promoting wholesale theft and slavery in the name of “justice” and “fairness” is good enough.
Edit: Since Frank’s article draws on Gladwell’s recent book, its interesting to note the “usual suspect” writing something different on it-
Yet, I can’t help but feel that Gladwell and others who share his emphasis are getting swept away by the coolness of the new discoveries. They’ve lost sight of the point at which the influence of social forces ends and the influence of the self-initiating individual begins.
Most successful people begin with two beliefs: the future can be better than the present, and I have the power to make it so. They were often showered by good fortune, but relied at crucial moments upon achievements of individual will.
Most successful people also have a phenomenal ability to consciously focus their attention. We know from experiments with subjects as diverse as obsessive-compulsive disorder sufferers and Buddhist monks that people who can self-consciously focus attention have the power to rewire their brains.
Control of attention is the ultimate individual power. People who can do that are not prisoners of the stimuli around them. They can choose from the patterns in the world and lengthen their time horizons. This individual power leads to others. It leads to self-control, the ability to formulate strategies in order to resist impulses. If forced to choose, we would all rather our children be poor with self-control than rich without it.
It leads to resilience, the ability to persevere with an idea even when all the influences in the world say it can’t be done. A common story among entrepreneurs is that people told them they were too stupid to do something, and they set out to prove the jerks wrong.
Brooks does recognize Gladwell’s position as a form of determinism and actually calls it “pleasantly egalitarian” but to give him credit, he does stay away from Frank’s stupid position.
Further, a comment on an Amazon review of the book says- “John Rawls, philosopher and a believer in luck and the ‘accidents of birth’, would be thrilled! ” Its a matter of patterns – different people writing different books with the same outcome in mind. That’s where the similarities lie.