Chris Dillow has another good post (Luck, & helpful illusionson how hard it is to accept that there isn’t a just or rational explanation for a lot of what goes on in the world:

Our success, or not, in life is surely a matter largely of luck. I can easily imagine that slight tweaks in my fortunes would have made me either a multi-millionaire or a convict – and I suspect the same is true for most folk.

In saying this, I am not taking a purely leftist position. In Law, Legislation and Liberty (ch 8), Hayek said that income inequalities between people “will often have no relations to their individual merits”and decried it as a “misfortune” that people defended free market on the erroneous grounds that they rewarded the deserving.

I fear, though, that mine, Smith’s and Hayek’s position is a minority one.Far more common is the belief that the successful have earned their rewards whilst the poor should work harder. Why do people believe such nonsense?

This struck a chord for me reading the Twitter reaction to the Ian Tomlinson judgement. There was a lot of anger at the decision – sometimes directed at the jury who acquitted the accused policeman, but more often at the rules that prevented previous disciplinary issues being raised.

This strikes me as another aspect of the “just world” fallacy: people look for juries to be deliverers of justice, and can’t manage the dissonance that juries are random, sometimes partial, sometimes biased, inexpert, and, conservative – while still being the best way of judging guilt or innocence in a democracy.


Written by Anthony Zacharzewski

Anthony Zacharzewski was one of the founders of Demsoc in 2006. Before starting work for Demsoc in 2010, he was a Whitehall civil servant and a local government officer.