Thursday, September 30, 2010
So this is an idea that is not fully developed, but I'm just exploring it a little. Most people take the book Outliers to be an argument for equalizing opportunities. They want to give the huge environmental advantages successful people need in the early stages of their life to everyone in order to help them. However, as an economist, I know that it is necessary to divert resources to do this (true, there may be some technological advantage in the mere knowledge of compounding advantages itself, but ultimately the opportunities are going to come down to a reallocation of resources). However, it may not make sense to do this. Thanks to the law of association (comparative advantage) we know that it is to our advantage ceteris paribus for our neighbor to be as successful as possible (I hold jealousy and envy to be philosophically misguided, hence discounting those as possible exceptions). Naturally we would want to leverage the benefits of concentrated resources as much as possible for the socially optimal outcome. A few geniuses might well outweigh a great amount of moderately successful people. Thus the most efficient social outcome might very well be a huge concentration of wealth and opportunities among a few people. Should it be done using force? No. But letting people leverage the advantages that they do have should take priority over equalizing advantages. Letting those who have demonstrated the best judgement in how to use resources distribute them is also a good idea. The need to equalize opportunity has led to a lot of static and dull conformity in our society (look at the school system), whereas a system that's more privatized would likely be much more dynamic and diverse.
Posted by Danny Hintze at 10:45 PM