On Luck, again

December 2, 2008

So Ezra posted again about Luck (original post here, my take on it here), and the role of luck in deciding one’s future, and he, as usual, articulates the idea I was primatively forming and adds other dimensions.  Here’s the crucial point:

But since we justify income inequality by understanding success as an outcome of virtue, there’s a tendency to ascribe achievement to diligent effort rather than the market’s amoral decisions to attach high value to certain spheres of labor and low value to others. The important variable for success, however, does not seem to be hard work but profession.

That’s it, of course.  We ascribe value to certain professions.  Of course, there’s the old supply and demand arguement, that there are more people capable of doing what “menial” jobs, thus you can pay less.  But that still ultimates comes back to luck.  I’m lucky in that I was born with certain skills and abilities and genetic materials that allows me to be an in-demand employee.  I was lucky to have been born in an era when, as a woman, I was allowed an education in maths and science and literature.  I was lucky to have parents who could afford to support me while I went straight fron school to a four-year University degree.

Yes, I am a narrow part of the labour market and can ask high wages because I am in high demand.  But even that is a function of luck.


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