A Persian Cafe, Edward Lord Weeks

Tuesday, 29 April 2014


Something which has always fascinated me is how productive some people are. I don't mean that they are hard-working - although they undoubtedly are - but that there are people who can produce thousands, even millions, of pounds worth of value in just a few minutes. Meanwhile, the vast majority of us live in a single house, drive a single car, and visits to nice places (the theatre, foreign climes, etc) are an occasional treat.

I should say that I have never had any moral objection to this. While I envy the super-rich (after all, who honestly doesn't?) my response to seeing things like the One Hyde Park apartments and their owners is "Good for them. I hope I become rich enough to live there someday."

A related issue is that of political leaders. I have always thought it strange that we assume in our political system that the best party to manage the national economy will also be the best party to manage the foreign affairs brief, or to determine education policy. (This is actually a large part of why I am an anarchist - I will openly admit that there are problems, most obviously small-but-widespread externalities, which would in theory be best solved by government intervention; however, the democratic system requires us to vote on so many issues at once, that there is basically no reward to a politician for having an honest, intelligent position on this kind of problem). And yet we invest vast amounts of power in small numbers of people, perhaps rightly so.

But what is it that makes these people so much more productive than you or I? Intelligence is obviously part of it, but are they really so much more intelligent that this makes sense of the orders of magnitude of difference in our incomes? Luck is presumably a large part of it - after all, where luck plays a large role you can generally expect lopsided payoffs. I find this rather depressing. I also wonder: where are all the failures?

No comments:

Post a Comment