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December 31, 2013



"there are many rappers like him, and he just got lucky"

Are you sure?


Are there many golfers like Tiger Woods?


To both the above, may I refer you to Mr Gray:

"...Some village-Hampden, that with dauntless breast
The little tyrant of his fields withstood;
Some mute inglorious Milton here may rest,
Some Cromwell guiltless of his country's blood."

Note a key fact about Jay Z and Tiger Woods. Both happened to be born in a large, rich country, with lots of golf courses and a large music industry. Do you put that down to their innate skill?

Socialism in One Bedroom

Amazing that people should defend what JayZ may be doing!

I think this shows that the main stumbling block to human progress is this idea of elitism, an idea that condemns countless millions to never reaching their true potential and raises worthless shit like playing golf to super human activity!

Tiger Woods should need a second job to make ends meet as far as I am concerned. Tiger Woods obscene and ridiculous wealth for the trivial thing he does should make us all anti free market fundamentalists!

He earns more with one advertising deal than many communities earn in a lifetime. Staggering that people see this as being perfectly normal. I can only put that down to brilliantly effective brainwashing


@ Pablopatito - I'm not sure. One test (which would avoid the outcome bias) would be: before Jay Z became famous, did experts in the genre forecast his success on the basis that he stood out among his peers?
Even if the answer is yes, Jay Z is still lucky to have such a talent, and lucky to be living in the US in the 21st C, where there's a demand for it.

Purple Library Guy

Excellent article. As to Jay Z or Tiger Woods . . . there are many art forms and many sports. I know of people as excellent at sword and shield combat as professional golfers are at golf, but they make no money at it. Yodellers don't get the big contracts, no matter how skilled. The folks in the symphony orchestras of major cities end up taking extra part time gigs to make ends meet.
Even in pop music, the really skilled house musicians that make the stars sound good and the professional songwriters that write many of their hits take home chicken feed.
So it's Jay Z's talent that's uniquely responsible for his wealth? Ludicrous. If an odd form of rhythmic talking, a rehearsed version of a skill originally notable because of its extemporaneous nature, didn't happen to be a highly popular entertainment form right now, he'd be making pennies and maybe some Reggae artist or Jazz man would be the millionaire.

But it'd be better if nobody was the millionaire and everyone got some respect.


Our sense of post modern 'elitism' is baffling and one form it takes is the increased 'cult of the celebrity'. New Media saturation like YouTube & countless digital channels especially for the young (but not exclusively)reinforces this. Of course the tabloids know its sells. But what really 'gets up my goat' is that our public service broadcaster the BBC massively colludes in it.

For too long this rich London-focused outfit has generated the cult of the celebrity but this last year or so we have seen allegations, arrests and charges against all sorts of former BBC celebrities as well as massive pay offs to former senior managers.

The BBC colludes in reinforcing the job market idea of 'talent' needs very high pay- our celebrities are special & deserve big bucks so Paxman and Dimblby are massively awarded ( JD on a little less than half-a-million a year of our licence money according to the hate D/Mail.

The BBC has not changed it revels in its show biz,disproportionate high pay packages, elitist obsessions and appalling metropolitan self-worship. It will not change- Hopefully Labour need to relook at the role of our public broadcaster at national level.


I notice that the examples are all from the US. I noticed this behaviour when I lived there for a couple of years - it is one of the reasons I moved back to the UK. I just don't see it here.

Bill Ellis

In defence of Noah... I do not agree entirely that, "We cannot redistribute respect unless we remove sources of material inequality."

I do believe that without altering material inequality we can, in degree, change the norms towards how we see and treat those who work hard yet don't make much money toward the positive. And that in changing those norms it will make it easier to change policies to address inequities in wealth.
There is an element of a negative feedback loop to this issue and it is better to try and effect change on both ends than to just focus on one.

One more thing I would add... No matter how much a society respects those who work hard---A person that works hard, yet can't support their family will have a hard time respecting themselves. And a society where people don't have self-respect will be dysfunctional. Any economic models built on "rational expectations" will be useless fantasies. A living wage is necessary for a market economy to function properly.

I know that idealized models can show that imposing a living wage is detrimental. But what does the empirical evidence show? If we look at market based economies and the times and places where there was/is , De facto or De jure, a living wage--we find vibrant functional economies.

Brian P Woods

@ BE: "A living wage is necessary for a market economy to function properly."

Are you OK with this? Just curious. I would opine that we no longer have a market economy - other than your local variety.

" ... change the norms towards how we see and treat those who work hard yet don't make much money ..."

You cannot 'change' norms that become established in a particular generation. They hold onto their 'norms' or whatever, like healthy limpets fastened onto a wet rock.

Anyhows, what is this fetish with 'hard work'? Most folk have little notion what this actually is - you know, 8-10 hours per day, each day, rain, hail snow or shine - of manual, waged-labour. I've been there and I would not recommend it as a career.

And another thingy. How about a Theory of Modern Incomes? Why? Whence? How? Or would that be a tad too challenging for our economic academics? I reckon it might be somewhat 'inconvenient' also.

Have a gander at: 'The Theory of the Leisure Class': Thorstein Veblen (1899). Then laugh or weep as required! Actually, its hilarious in spots.



«In elevating the pursuit of what Alasdair MacIntyre calls the goods of effectiveness (wealth and power) over those of excellence (skill at particular practices),»

«To the extent that these mechanisms exist, I fear Noah is being a little naive. We cannot redistribute respect unless we remove sources of material inequality.»

perhaps, but the question is whether there is an influential constituency that supports Noah's attitude or not.

I am under the impression that the majority of voters in the USA, UK etc. are enthusiastic supporters of wealth and power based elitism because it thinks that it means themselves.

Reactionaries in the USA, the UK, etc. have sold very well to the voters of their countries the model of a plantation economy, in an upper crust of deserving, aspirational, hard-grafting, productive property and business rentiers are the plantation ladies (and lords) of the manor, with the power and wealth to which their superior proprietorship entitles them.

While everybody else are taker/moocher/looter, improductive, parasitic, lazy, workers who contribute nothing to and deserve nothing from the success of their superiors.

These have been the politics of the UK after Right-To-Buy, and of the USA after Reagan/Clinton, and after endless giant credit bubbles that have created huge tax-free effort-free capital gains in the USA, UK, etc. and large employment and wage booms in China and India.

There is not much space in this story for the ladies and lords and of the manor to find respect the losers downstairs, whatever their useless "excellence" is.

Rather than respect I find often that the attitude of the upstairs people (and the majority of voters have been persuaded by well crafted reactionary propaganda that they belong upstairs) is *spite* at the downstairs underpeople, as per the beginning of this post.


People compete all the time in arenas having almost nothing to do with materialism. Everyone in San Francisco is a DJ e.g. in their twenties, before making money - and being introduced to all new status/respect games - in their 30s.They're equally broke, but not equally exalted. Not everyone will go to the after party and have sex on a crappy mattress in a freezing warehouse.

Pluralism, "markets in everything" in America reveals many ways one can attempt to gain respect.


Interesting thoughts Chris. I am interpreting what you wrote as you are playing up the parts of your view that contrast the most with Noah's, rather than portray ambiguity.


Here is a thought experiment. Suppose one elite named HerrDoktor Professor Chris Dillow switched from looking through the people who serve him to some more respectful, not condescending, alternative. What would be the net macro effect of this change? What if N empowered people switched, simply for their own moral reasons. At what N can these micro respects be said to overthrow the endogenous ideological tyranny described in this article? (phase change? or gradual?)

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