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July 20, 2007

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Matt Munro

Luck = Opportunity + preparation. As wealth (within the population of post industrial societies at least)corrletes highly with intelligence (ignoring the obvious exceptions like Alan Sugar) it follows that intelligent people, through some combination of nature and nurture are the most prepared and get the most oportunities.
Foe example, an intelligent person will apply for a job in a burger bar, on crap wages, realising that he is thus more likely to be in a position to be offered the managers job in the future, whereas a stupid person won't apply for the job but will then bemoan his lack of "opportunity".

Igor Belanov

A managers job at a burger bar would still be crap wages. And from your position such things as unscrupulousness, greed, selfishness and so on would count as 'intelligence'. Management and entrepreneurship require certain skills and personality facets, but not what we'd usually class as intelligence.

Bob B

Individuals who inherit wealth can simply spend it but those who are born with abilities also need conducive environments, opportunties and encouragement to fulfil those talents and attract commensurate rewards.

Much of the current debate in Britain about schools and education is about whether certain kinds of schools and schooling are more likely to enable individuals to realise their potential.

Luis Enrique

If effort and ability increases the chances of good things happening to you, then do you still say everything remains down to luck, or do you say that effort and ability explains your good fortune?

The 'luck' led to Markowitz's PhD need not be put in the same category as a lottery win - he had worked hard to get where he was, and had to have the wit to spot his opportunity and more hard work to capitalise on it.

Not every form of 'luck' need be regarded in the same way. For example we might consider the luck of your generic inheritance to be quite a different matter from the luck of your family circumstances or the luck of the country you were born in, quite differently, in terms of what we think society ought to try and compensate for.

emmanuelgoldstein

[Tim asks why differences in ability are less unjust than differences in inherited wealth. Like him, I don't see much distinction]

Depends on what precisely he means by 'ability', but, in principle, *some* abilities are open to (practically) everyone, whereas what is being inherited isn't.

dearieme

You link to Caplan's stuff at the end there. I'm struck that's he's never met people who are in both of his categories, "jock" and "nerd". The USA must be a much more foreign place than I had assumed. My experience says that there are people who are doubly lucky. And, if they are both gifted at reflection, and graced with good manners, they won't deny it.

spencer

Being born with ability means you have the capacity to do good and productive work that
you will be rewarded for. However, you do not get the reward without doing the work to produce something the system considers valuable. Being born with wealth means you can live off of this wealth without ever having to produce something useful.

This means there is a big difference between being born with ability and with wealth.

Mark Wadsworth

Of course it's largely luck, as defined.

So what?

Everybody has the right to help their kids, whether this is during their lifetimes or on death. Inheritance Tax is (taken in isolation and also in practice) a totally evil and pointless tax.

dave

Note that the first three of your "other" types of luck, are all just examples oh having good genes. Why? Because there is no such thing as "good genes" without reference to a specific environment. Genes are good if and only if they are well adapted to the present environment of the organism. The persent environment obviously includes the time and place of the organism's existence, as well as "The luck of others' tastes and abilities". There can be no other criterion for the goodness of genes.

cityunslicker

the more you practice the luckier you get. Sometimes it is hard to split what is luck and what is the result of hard work.

How could you really know the difference to re-allocate the 'luck' capital.

pommygranate

Chris

Luck is one factor (the luck of being born in a wealthy country to wealthy and ambitious parents is enormous).

However from there i disagree entirely with this post. It is a most defeatist post.

Today the best graduates want to be management consultants and traders because these jobs pay the most. A hundred years ago, the best brains went into the civil service and the foreign office, two hundred years before that it was the Church.

Most smart people weigh up the pay, the hours, and the stimulation of each job before entering it.

Teddy Sheringham may indeed be lucky, but wait for the army of kids born to ambitious middle class parents that are now pushing their children away from accountancy and toward football.

Jim Donovan

Since smart, successful people tend to have children with other smart people, luck doesn't apply - it;s a deliberate act.And while luck has a part to play in success, most successful people I know think they got there mainly through preparation, hard work, creativity and risk-taking. On the other hand, the people who might be regarded as failures tend to blame bad luck. And some of those "unlucky enough" to have less intelligence, less drive and less creativity assume misdeeds (rather than ability and application) to explain the success of those "lucky enough" to have those traits in spades. I'd say the evidence is against luck.

Peter Risdon

You're begging the question (again). The idea that luck should be pooled also needs justification.

Scratch

" but wait for the army of kids born to ambitious middle class parents that are now pushing their children away from accountancy and toward football."

They'd be ill advised to do that, there's no hiding place for inadequates in football and networking would be of little consequence when trying to mark someone smarter and more skilled than them.

Best stick to the professions.

jameshigham

Nice little sales pitch, Chris.

Matt Munro

A managers job at a burger bar would still be crap wages. And from your position such things as unscrupulousness, greed, selfishness and so on would count as 'intelligence'. Management and entrepreneurship require certain skills and personality facets, but not what we'd usually class as intelligence.

Posted by: Igor Belanov | July 20, 2007 at 01:41 PM

I don't think that's what I was saying at all - Intelligent people realise they may have to do a job they don't like for poor reward now in order to secure a job they do like for high rewards in the future. It's called delayed gratification and it's evident in most intelligent people. The burger bar example was an illustation that you can't start at the top and inteliigent people realise this - they plan for sucess, sometimes over decades. My Alan Sugar example demonstrated that being an entrepreneur is almost entirely luck, nothing to do with intelligence.

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