I think what’s interesting in this Will Wilkinson piece is that all parties—conservatives, libertarians, liberals—are so focused on explaining what causes people to fail or “fall behind.” I’m much more interested in the success outliers, i.e. the top 0.1%, than the bottom 50% or so. This is because I think that the difference between being in the top 5% and being in the top 1%, is mostly luck, and the difference between being in the top 1% and being in the top 0.1% is entirely luck.
This isn’t to say that hard work and individual initiative don’t matter—they’re essential for entry into a new global elite that’s no longer based on inheritance. My point is that these virtues aren’t sufficient in and of themselves to get you into the elite. You also need a large dose of luck. In this respect, I’m in complete agreement with Taleb’s famous quote: “Hard work will get you a professorship or a BMW. You need both work and luck for a Booker, a Nobel or a private jet.”
The main place where I’m in agreement with #OWS is that I do not want to live in a “winner take all” society, where the winners who are taking it all have lucked their way into that winning spot (despite what they tell themselves about how much they deserve their spoils due to their brains and hard work). I’d be happy with something like “hardworking winners take most,” “lucky winners take some extra,” and both types of winners make sure that hardworking and unlucky losers have the basics (healthcare, affordable housing, food, etc.).
One of the most robust finding in political psychology is that liberals tend to explain both poverty and wealth in terms of luck and the influence of social forces while conservatives tend to explain poverty and wealth in terms of effort and individual initiative…
…But, having lived most of my adult life among them, experience tells me that when it comes to the explanation of poverty and wealth libertarians are close cousins to conservatives. It’s my view that this shared sense of robust agency and individual responsibility for success and failure is the psychological linchpin of “fusionism”–that this commonality in disposition has made the long-time alliance between conservatives and libertarians possible, despite the fact that libertarians are almost identical to liberals in their unconcern for the conservative binding foundations. That’s why controversial “social issues” like abortion and gay marriage are generally pushed to the side when libertarians and conservatives get together. As long as they stick to complaining about handouts for poor people sitting on their asses and praising rich people working hard to make civilization possible, libertarians and conservatives get along fine.