Who is against individual responsibility?

Good points from Tyler Cowen:

Who is against individual responsibility?:

I agree with most of Matt’s recent post, but one sentence struck me as noteworthy.  Matt writes:

I suppose I agree with Will Wilkinson about the importance of “an ethos of initiative, hard work, and individual responsibility” though I have no real idea why he thinks most progressives are against such an ethos.

I could write that sentence without the “I suppose”!  The final clause of the sentence I see as showing just how broad the perceptual gulf between progressives and conservatives/libertarians can be.

I would not quite say that progressives are “against such an ethos,” but where does it stand in their pecking order?  Look at fiction, such as famous left-wing or progressive novels, or for that matter famous left-wing and progressive movies.  How many of them celebrate “an ethos of initiative, hard work, and individual responsibility”?

(Via Marginal Revolution)

Tea Party vs. OWS: The psychology and ideology of responsibility

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.).

Tea Party vs. OWS: The psychology and ideology of responsibility | The Moral Sciences Club | Big Think:

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.

(Via bigthink.com)

Occupy Wall Street, Social Unrest and Income Inequality

Occupy Wall Street, Social Unrest and Income Inequality:

By Rick Bookstaber

We are seeing the specter of instability in the growing protests of income inequality, economic distress of the middle class, and economic and political power of the very wealthy. There is Occupy Wall Street in the U.S., and similar protests ranging across the globe. In parts of Europe there is rioting in the streets, in parts of China protests have turned deadly.

A microcosm for these protests can be seen in Israel, which is among the first of the countries to stage such protests. In a one of my recent posts, “Workers of the World, Goodnight!“, I recount my experience in the egalitarian Israel in the early 1980s, and contrast that with the Israel of today, where a handful of families basically have a controlling interest in the economy proper, and where the concentration of wealth at the top that makes the U.S. look like a commune. This transformation over the past few decades tells us something about the roots of social unrest that have spread recently from Occupy Wall Street to other countries. The Israeli society that I saw three decades ago was one that faced the unrelenting specter of war. During times of crisis, of war or natural disaster where there is a randomness to existence that extends beyond wealth to issues of life and death, people choose to be more egalitarian. People know they might end up with the short end of the stick with the next roll of the dice, and that whatever they acquire will likely be transitory. So they first and foremost focus on keeping a social system and its support structure in place.

Unerring stability leads to the opposite course. For example, in the medieval societies where position remained unchanged for decades, even centuries, where land, the key source of wealth, passed inexorably from one generation to the next, where class distinctions dictated the path of your life and that of your children, an egalitarian notion was not even in the realm of consideration. There were the rich and there were the poor. It was as simple as that…

(Via Credit Writedowns)