Sunday, October 28

"Fate's distribution of long straws is wildly capricious."

Excerpted from “Assholes: A Theory” by Aaron James.
"Assholes largely share a thick sense of moral entitlement. Just as hypocrisy is the homage that vice pays to virtue, late 19th and early 20th century businessmen like Cecil Rhodes, Albert Beveridge and John D. Rockefeller all felt a need to invoke entitlement on a cosmic scale, in effect sensing that something might be majorly amiss. In stark contrast with the grandiose reasoning of the era of colonialism, the asshole in more recent modern life often requires little or no pretext of larger cause for the special privileges he feels entitled to enjoy. He will usually have some sort of rationalization ready at hand — he is not the psychopath who rejects moral concepts altogether — but the rationalizations are becoming ever thinner, ever more difficult to identify. This newer, purer style of asshole often just presumes he should enjoy special privileges in social life as a matter of course and so requires little by way of reason for taking them as the opportunity arises."
...  
"...on philosophical grounds, however, this view [that in a capitalist society, a free market, people get what they deserve] is exceedingly hard to defend. That is true according to none other than the archconservative twentieth-century apologist for capitalism, F. A. Hayek. He writes:
" 'There is little a man can do to alter the fact that his special talents are very common or exceedingly rare. A good mind or a fine voice, a beautiful face or a skilful hand, a ready wit or an attractive personality are in a large measure as independent of a person’s efforts as the opportunities or the experiences he has had. In all these instances the value which a person’s capacities or services have for us and for which he is recompensed has little relation to anything that we can call moral merit or 'deserts.' '
"The billionaire investor and oracular philosopher Warren Buffett echoes the point:
" 'My luck was accentuated by my living in a market system that sometimes produces distorted results, though overall it serves our country well. I’ve worked in an economy that rewards someone who saves the lives of others on a battlefield with a medal, rewards a great teacher with thank-you notes from parents, but rewards those who can detect the mispricing of securities with sums reaching into the billions. In short, fate’s distribution of long straws is wildly capricious.'
"In other words, ideas of deserts just don’t justify the going rate of rewards."
How Fox News created a new culture of idiots (Salon)

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