Sunday, September 16, 2012
I am Not Equal to Lebron James
Learn Liberty has a contest to do a video response to the following video regarding equality.
Here is my response, following up on the theme that we ordinary people are not equal to millionaire celebrities. My point is that this inequality goes all the way down to the genetic level. Lebron James is making millions more than I will ever make not because he is particularly hard working, but because he was born with a particular set of genetic traits that marked him even from childhood as an ideal basketball player.
Milton Friedman made a similar argument years ago about genetic ability. His point was that there are no clear lines between people born into wealthy families, leading lives of luxury that most people can only dream of, and people born with certain talents, like being able to play the violin, that others will never be able to do.
It is interesting to note that Adam Smith took it as a given that people were fundamentally equal in talent even in intelligence. Thus, if we were to remove aristocratic privileges, we would soon find a society where everyone was about equal in their economic circumstances. The only exception would be lottery winners; literal lottery winners as well as people who succeeded through equal dumb luck in business ventures or in becoming lawyers. The law of averages being what they are, even these distinctions would not hold for long. Smith lived before the industrial revolution and the new economic inequalities it created. He also lived before our celebrity culture, which pays millions to athletes and actors mainly for genetically based abilities. Finally Smith did not live in a world in which high IQ individuals could make millions creating companies like Microsoft, Apple and Facebook.