FreeWill, Luck, and Income Inequality

This Mises Blog post references this article about birth lottery and poverty. Milton Friedman and Bill Bennett are interviewed on the subject, and Friedman makes some interesting points about determinism.

"You've asked a very hard question," he said. In part, he added, because it's not clear that what we think of as luck really isn't something else. "I feel," he said, "and you do, too, I'm sure, that what some people attribute to luck is not really luck. That people are envious of others, you know, `that lucky bastard,' when the truth of the matter is that that fellow had more ability or he worked harder. So that not all differences are attributable to luck."

"I know it's not all luck," I agreed, but I added that it's legitimate to wonder whether it's luck, as opposed to personal initiative and character, that most accounts for where one ends up.

What bothers me about this article is that the author, Matthew Miller, seems to think that luck is opposed to personal initiative and character. I would say that those things are in part determined by genes as well, meaning they are part luck too.

Ulitmately, income inequality boils down to the fact that people are born different. I actually have a lot to say about this, but I want to hold off for a few weeks. I am still reading Steven Pinker's The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature and I want to finish it before I state all my views on this topic. The book is excellent, and normally I would read it in a week or two, but there is so much to take in that I often have to put it down after just a few pages and chew on that new information for a day or two.

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In the meantime, I leave you with these three questions about income inequality:

1)Are some people more valuable to society than others?

2)Is the outcry against income inequality because we think people are more or less equal but aren't paid that way, or do we think that the distribution of talent is unequal, but when it comes to money we should equalize it (even though we don't do this for other things like athletic or artistic skills).

3)Should people be valued by how hard they work, or how important their work is to society? I only ask because poorer people that I know often complain that they should earn more because they work hard.

UPDATE: If you are one who believes that genes determine nearly everything, and that income inequality is "natural" be careful about falling for the "naturalistic fallacy", which means equating what is natural with what is good. Nature is what it is, and just because evolution favors a certain trait, it doesn't really make sense to say that trait is "good". All we can say is that the trait provided some survival value.