Thursday, January 10, 2008

Is Wealth Acquired by Accident?

Is Wealth Acquired by Luck?

It is an accident that you just happened to be born to parents with the means to provide for you. And it is also by luck that you happened to be born in a country that permits you to get a decent job. And it is also your luck that you were not born in the 15th Century. And, for that matter, it was also a winning gamble that you were not born with a debilitating birth defect.

Further, you are lucky to have inherited characteristics that have enabled you to become wealthy -- whether it's a superior physical ability or a high IQ. And, perhaps your parents used those lucky genetic traits to accumulate wealth to pass to you in the form of an inheritance.

And it could be pure luck that enables you to have the patience and diligence to perform difficult, tiresome, and tedious work -- the sort of work that might make you wealthy. are, by definition, who you are. You are no more lucky that you were born rich than you are lucky that you weren't born a cockroach. There was never any chance that you would have been born a cockroach, and there was never any chance that you would have been born anything than what you are. If you were born as someone different, then "you" would not be "you".

So, what does all this mean? What are the implications? What is the "therefore..."?

Would it therefore be correct to say that "the implication is that wealth is not really earned, and should therefore be distributed to those who are less well-off?"

If the answer is "yes, my wealth is unearned and should be given to others", then you should give all your money to cockroaches. And maybe you should give your money to plants and bacteria as well.

Or, if you prefer to give to your own species (and why would you?), then your every last "lucky" penny could be transferred to the unlucky poor around the world. You would then be brought down to their absolute poverty, and they would not notice any change in their living standards. Ten million dollars is enough to give a penny to one billion poor people.

In the end, we would have one billion and one poor people.

Unless, of course, all the lucky people in the rich countries were forced to turn over everything they have to the folks in Burundi and Malawi. That way, everyone in the world can be unlucky. Problem solved.

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