Video: Should You Try to Cultivate Good Luck?

Apr 112012

In Sunday’s Philosophy in Action Webcast, I discussed cultivating good luck. The question was:

Can and should a person try to cultivate his own “good luck”? For example, a construction worker might leave his business card with neighbors in case they or anyone they might know happens to need his services in the future. Similarly, an investor might look to buy stock in companies with promising patents pending or forthcoming products. Is pursuing these kinds of uncertain opportunities a means of cultivating good luck?
My answer, in brief:
Good luck is not a force in the universe that a person can cultivate. Rather, to the extent that a person extends his knowledge and control over his life, he minimizes the effects of luck in life. That’s the right approach.
Here’s the video of my full answer:
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NoodleCast #71: Two More Tidbits from Liberty on the Rocks

Apr 202011

Ari Armstrong posted to more videos from my April 6th appearance at Liberty on the Rocks in Denver. The first concerns the factual basis for rights:

The second discusses the Rawlsian argument from luck against capitalism:

My comments in these videos are purely impromptu, but I’m pleased enough with them that I’ve made them into a podcast.

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Duration: 6:16

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Compensating for Unequal Luck

Jun 212010

Back in January, I wrote a blog post entitled No Kindles on Campus: All Must Be Blind. It concerned the news that three colleges seeking to experiment with using the Kindle rather than expensive textbooks were forbidden from doing so by the Justice Department because they’re not fully functional for blind students. In writing that post, I cut the following few paragraphs from it when I decided that I wanted to go in a different direction. However, I liked them so much that I saved them. When I ran across them yesterday, I decided to make a quick blog post out of them. Without further ado…

To assert that supposedly lucky people are obliged to sacrifice for supposedly unlucky people — even just for the sake of equal opportunities — means penalizing people for their virtues, effort, and success. How so? Of course, we cannot possibly equalize people’s luck. That would require making everyone’s life like a video game, such that each person played experienced the same world, faced the same obstacles, and possessed the same capacities and tools. That’s absurd — and impossible. Yet implicitly, that is the egalitarian ideal, as best exemplified by John Rawls’ “veil of ignorance.”

So what does the egalitarian of opportunity actually advocate? He advocates sacrificing better-off people to worse-off people. Consider how opportunities might be equalized. People living in wealthy neighborhoods might be taxed at higher rates to support schools in poorer neighborhoods, so as to give children similar educations regardless of the wealth of their parents. People who earn more might be taxed more (whether in absolute numbers or percentages) to find welfare programs, so that even poor children might not suffer from the poverty of their parents. The most qualified person for some position might be passed over for a promotion, so that a person with a pitiable background might not suffer doubly from that.

To adopt any of those policies is to penalize people because they are better off — meaning for their virtues, effort, and success. It’s not compensation for luck, as that cannot be isolated. It’s inflicting sacrifices on the good because they are the good. Ultimately, just as in Kurt Vonnegut’s story Harrison Bergeron, that’s the only way to make people equal: degrade and burden the more rational, capable, and ambitious people until they cannot do any better than than the irrational, the inept, and the shiftless.

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