Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Richard Posner on LUCK or Posner Is a Dirty Liar.
Just a get a load of the specious straw man arguments in Richard Posner's blog post on Wealth and Luck.
Liberals and conservatives tend to disagree about the role of luck in financial success, the
former thinking it plays a very big role, the latter thinking it plays a small
role: that instead financial success is largely attributable to talent and hard
work. Taken to its extreme, the second position is the one that was espoused by
the radical libertarian Ayn Rand.
This is not the core of the debate at all. Lots of liberals believe that hard work is at the basis of success, and lots of conservatives know all about the role of luck. If some kid is born to a billionaire, what conservative isn't going to say the kid isn't lucky? And conservatives are the first to say, "Life is unfair", meaning some people are naturally smarter, more creative, more athletic, better looking, and etc. than other people. And liberals know all about the role of effort in shaping one's position in life. Why else would affluent liberal parents invest so much time and money into raising their children? They know that their children must be drummed with the lesson that the game of success is intensely competitive.
Where liberals and conservatives differ is on the issue of how much the state should intervene to redistribute wealth and to fix social problems. So, even conservatives who believe that luck is important will say, 'tough luck' to those who aren't so lucky. And even liberals who believe in the primacy of effort will say the government should do more to take care of those 'left behind'.
Also, Ayn Rand was a big believer in luck. She never for a second believed that everyone was born equal and had equal chance at success through hard work. She believed that some people had inborn talent for art, making money, or what have you. In other words, life is unfair. Her contention was that since it's the rare individual genius who creates something new in science, art, and business, such people should be allowed maximum freedom to pursue their visions. She was not some Horatio Alger rags-to-riches peddler to the masses. She thought only very few individuals were born with the talent to become something great. But if they create something great, it will be good for mankind as a whole since we'll all have more jobs--though expanding business--, more great art, more great books, more great architecture, more better medicine, more etc, etc.
I don’t find any merit to the celebration of the tycoon by Ayn Rand and her followers.
Though I'm not a Randian, it's ridiculously simplistic to say she celebrated tycoons. She celebrated the visionary, and the visionary could be a starving artist or a rich businessman. She didn't admire people simply because they were rich. She didn't care for those who inherited wealth, and she didn't like people who got rich by colluding with big government. She wouldn't have cared for Wall Street sharks who've raked in billions by gaming the system.
She was for the visionary tycoon who builds a new business model or a great new product. She didn't so much admire the tycoon per se but the leap of imagination that could earn a man a great fortune. Some men simply have more drive, more imagination, more spirit, more will and determination, more ideas. And it is because America gave free rein to such men that it developed the greatest wealth on Earth. Russia has been comparable to the US in population and raw materials, but Russians remained backward because individuals didn't have the same freedom. And even though Stalin did develop Russia, he created a vast slave state.
At any rate, Rand thought even the Tycoon should bow down to the pure artist-visionary who compromises nothing, not even for a great fortune. In FOUNTAINHEAD, the rich tycoon admits defeat-of-will with the artist-visionary and surrenders his woman and fortune to the artist's greater vision.
I'm not a Randian because her views were too romantic. The world is a lot more complex than Rand made out; even so, Rand was a lot more complex than Posner makes out.
I think that ultimately everything is attributable to luck, good or bad. Not just the
obvious things, like IQ, genes that predipose to health or sickliness, the historical
era and the country in which one is born, the wealth of one’s parents, whom one
happens to meet at critical stages of one’s life and career, one’s height and
looks and temperament, to the extent genetic, and one’s innate propensity to
risk or caution (that is an exceptionally important factor); but also the
characteristics that cause a person to make critical decisions that may turn
out well or badly, characteristics that really are derivative from some of the
previously noted “luck” characteristics. The decision-determining
characteristics include intelligence, imagination, attitude toward risk, and
personality characteristics such as aggressiveness, maladjustment, indolence,
and having a low or high personal discount rate (how future-regarding one is or
is not). Talent is luck but so is the propensity for working hard (often the
consequence of a compulsive personality) or not working hard.
Posner is willfully being childish. He is confusing LUCK with ADVANTAGES. If someone is born smart, that is an advantage, not a luck. Luck would be if I was walking along and came upon a suitcase with a million dollars. But being intelligent means you may have the chance to make a million dollars, not that you will. Posner says being born smart is 'luck' and so is the propensity for being working hard. While it's true that some people are born with more advantageous traits, there is no guarantee that he will follow through with their advantages. After all, there are many people who go to good colleges but ruin their lives. And there are people who aren't born too bright nor with 'hard work' genes but they get their act together and make something of their lives. While genes determine a lot, there is no guarantee of anything in life. Not everyone born with athletic talent become great athletes.
Also, people born with certain advantages may become obsessed with something they are no good at. A person who could have been a great doctor may fall in love with theater and follow a hopeless career in Theater. What Posner is pushing is a kind of social predestination. He's not only saying that genetic and socio-economic forces greatly shape our lives but determine our lives right down the last nitty gritty detail.
It is a dangerous idea that reduces humanity to lab rats. Posner, like so many Jewish intellectuals, suffers from a hubris whereby he looks upon all of us as guinea pigs to observe, study, and control. Thus, we are not free, we have no free will, we are not owed our success(nor responsible for our failure), we don't deserve what we earn, and etc. Why? It's all LUCK according to his Theory of Everything. What arrogance!
If Posner really believes this, why is he a judge? Who is HE to pass judgment on anyone? Is he for the existence of the Supreme Court? Why should a 'lucky' few determine the laws of the land for everyone? I'll bet he's for the Supreme Court out of professional courtesy and because he wants to control our lives as much as possible. He is the one free human and we are all lab rats.
Following his logic, no one is guilty of anything since everyone's actions were just the product of genetic and social forces. Hitler was no evildoer. He was just a 'victim' of the forces that made him what he is. He didn't choose to invade Russia. He was 'pushed' by genetic and socio-economic forces. While I agree that Hitler cannot be understood outside his personality and historical forces, he did have a conscious mind. So did Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, and the rest.
I do not believe in free will. I think that everything that a person does is
caused by something. It is true, and is the basis of belief in free will, that
often we are conscious of considering pros and cons in deciding on a course of
action; “we” are deciding, rather than having the decision made by something
outside “us.” But calculation and decisionmaking are different. Deciding may
just mean calculating the balance of utility and disutility; the result of the
balance determines the decision. No doubt when a cat pounces on a mouse, it has
decided to do so; but the decision was compelled by circumstances—the feline
diet, the presence of the mouse, etc. A complete description of the incident
would not require positing free will.
Why does Posner think only in either/or terms as if the whole world is made up of simple binaries?
The idea of 'free will' doesn't mean we freely make all our decisions in every aspect. Of course, there are always circumstances, needs, natures, drives, and pressures we all have to deal with.
But why are US and Japan such different nations? While everyone had to deal with social forces and social pressures, isn't it true that some societies have allowed greater individual leeway in choosing one's profession, hobbies and interests, love life, political views, economic decisions, and etc? Even if there is no such thing as absolute or radical 'free will', there is a lot more 'free will' under a democratic capitalist system than under a Stalinist-Maoist system.
In America, one may chosen to read this book this week, watch that movie the next week, go the museum the following week, and etc. In Maoist China, you had to attend political meetings because otherwise, you might end up in the gulag. And you had no choice but to watch propaganda films and only propaganda films. Even if there is no absolute 'free will', the role of 'freedom' works differently in different societies. In a free society, we may not be totally free, but we are more free in our 'free will'.
True, we can play a Kafkaesque game where it turns out that we are not really free, and there are all sorts of barriers between us and the Castle, and all sorts of forces that 'accuse' us of whatever. Ironically, Posner the Jew, as one of the guards of the Castle(he's one of the most powerful judges in America) is passing judgment on all of us, and accusing us that all our wealth and freedom don't really belong to us. Now, we goyim are like Joseph K.'s who must rely on the authority of the great Posner to find out if we are really free or unfree, if we really deserve what we earn or not. Even freedom is not free in the Posneresque world since everything that makes up our lives was due to some cosmic Luck.
Free will is especially important for men of great talent. There was no certainty that Orson Welles would direct CITIZEN KANE. At many points in his life, he had many offers to direct this movie, act in that movie, or direct this stage production, and etc. But he freely made certain choices. His choices took place with a certain socio-economic context, but he had more free will than someone in Mao's China or Stalin's Russia.
Posner compares a man with a cat, but a man is many times more complex than a cat. A man is self-conscious, which a cat is not. Man, in becoming aware of his conscious will, is 'condemned to be free'. And even if most people are part of the herd, some people break out of the mold for some reason, and an element of free will is involved.
Free will or no free will, there is no doubt that a society that allows freedom and a society that does not will end up with very different results, and those results will become part of the new social system of pressures. Consider how people in Eastern Europe had been drummed with communist ideology for decades but when they were allowed freedom of choice, they said NO to communism. I'm not saying each individual made a 'free will' decision, but the reason why the people rejected communism was it didn't allow the freedom of decision for individuals. Free people want the freedom to succeed and the freedom to fail.
If this is right, a brilliant wealthy person like Bill Gates is not “entitled” to his
wealth in some moral, Ayn Randian sense. But it would be ridiculous to infer
from this that the government should take his wealth away from him and scatter
it among the poor, on the theory that the only difference between Gates and a
poor person is that one is lucky and the other is not. But the reason that it
would be ridiculous is that it would have terrible incentive effects, not that
it would violate some deep sense of human freedom.
Posner's arrogance knows no bounds. He basically says we are not entitled to what we earn. We have no moral or ethical right to keep it, and the ONLY reason we should be allowed to keep it is because it will have negative 'incentive' effects; in other words, the ONLY legitimate reason is pragmatic.
Simply put, Posner sees us as dogs or horses. It's like saying a dog or horse should be given special snacks because the rewards will have incentive effect to keep them working for us.
So, if you start a business, work 12 hrs a day, and save up a small fortune, you are not really entitled to it. You should be allowed to keep your earnings ONLY BECAUSE it serves as an incentive to keep earning more SO THAT YOU WILL PAY MORE TAXES to support people who work in government like Posner. What an arrogant ass.
So, if you design a new computer and make millions, you don't deserve your wealth. YOU didn't do that. Your success was predestined or preordained by genetic and socio-economic forces. And so, the ONLY justification for letting you keep your wealth is because it serves as an incentive so that you will earn more in order to be TAXED MORE by the government that Posner works for.
Posner is really channeling the Old Hebraic ideal. Jews came in two forms: Prophets and Men of Profits. The old Jewish idea was that men of profit should work hard, earn wealth, and then pass over a chunk of their cash to the Prophets. Since Prophets were men of God and full of wisdom, it was only right that the crass men of profit should work hard and hand over their cash to the Wise Men. But hey, since men of profit won't work as hard if all their earnings were taken by the Prophets, they should be allowed to keep a tidy sum.. just as an incentive to keep working harder in order to earn more so as to pass over more cash to the Prophets.
What an arrogant ass. It's no different from Marx believing that he, as the prophet, should be funded by progressive men of profit such as Engels. Marx, like Posner, never worked at a real job in his life.
Posner sees us a hunting dogs. We hunt and bring him the prey, and he gives us a portion, and why? Because we suckers will keep hunting for more so he gets to eat while not working(at a real job) at all.
(Posner says he doesn't get paid much, but his greed is of another sort. Power. He wants to control our minds and our lives.)
To the likes of Posner, I say my earning is mine and I'm entitled to it cuz I freely busted my butt for it. I don't exist and work just to pay taxes to support your arrogant ass. And I will defend what I got with my gun. Live free or die.
P.S. All this discussion of Left vs Right or Liberal vs Conservative is just a red herring, and I suspect Posner knows it. The real problem of America isn't ideological divisions(as most conservatives are not Randians and most liberals are not radical socialists). What really ails out society is the ethnic power of Jews. Why were Jews on Wall Street able to get away with all sorts of high crimes? Why didn't the media go after them? Most of the media are owned by the same tribe. Six Jewish-dominated conglomerates control almost all of the media. And even American conservatism is owned by neocon Zionists. America's top law firms and elite judges are also disproportionately Jewish, and they also cover up for their own kind. Supreme Court has three Jews out of nine judges, and even Sotomayor is just a shill for liberal Zionists(as are most other judges). And the American government is heavily financed and controlled by Jews. What did Bush II and Obama do? They 'bailed out ' Wall Street. Both handed over economic policy to Jewish Wall Street insiders. Larry Summers, Timothy Geithner, Robert Rubin, and others are not Randians, but all they all colluded to cover up for Wall Street Jews because they too are insiders of the same tribe. And even though Posner acts like an independent mind, he too is of the Jewish tribal persuasion. And instead of discussing the REAL power in this country, he talks about abstractions about taxes and 'free will'. Since elite academia are also controlled by Jews, and since most Jews, liberal or conservative, are for Jewish power and unity, there won't be any real changes in America(unless it's good for Jews). Jews are 2% of the population but 65% of Democratic Party funds come from Jews. 40% of GOP funds come from Jews. Though Israel has over 200 illegal nukes, we send it $3 billion in aid every year while a nation like Iran, with no illegal nukes, is economically strangulated like Stalin and Kaganovich strangulated and starved Ukraine to break its will and spine. But what did it matter? Ukrainians had no 'free will', and so nothing was really taken from them.