Is success luck of the draw?

To the editor:

You’ve worked hard. You have your business degree and a good job in industry. Or you have an advanced degree and a research position in a corporation. You’re proud of your accomplishments, but you find yourself looking down at people who seem to have no initiative, living in poverty.

How much of a person’s success or lack thereof is entirely their own doing? How much is dependent on “the luck of the draw?”

In a thought experiment, Philosopher John Rawls, in his book “A Theory of Justice,” posits a way to create rules for a just society based on the “luck of the draw.” Suppose, he argued, that everyone is in an original position before birth and don’t know what circumstances await them after birth. They will not know what family, social order, or religious belief system, if any, under which they will be born. They will not know if they will be beautiful or plain, intelligent or challenged, healthy or sickly, and wealthy or poor.

Now suppose, in your pre-birth ignorance of the future, you are asked to organize the rules for a just society, not knowing into what circumstances you will be born by the “luck of the draw.” Clearly self interest will dominate in formulating the rules since you may have an unlucky draw.

First, there are rules that you wouldn’t want. You wouldn’t want rules for a greedy laissez-faire economic system since you might be born into poverty. You wouldn’t want a health care system controlled by insurance companies and vested interests because you might be born with a pre-existing condition.

Church and state separation would be enacted to prevent legislative abuse by religious enthusiasts. Broad education would start with the very young and include science, the arts, the humanities, literature, fine music, and a work ethic.

Health care would be provided to all by a government provided single payer system as in the most advanced countries.

Business enterprises would be encouraged by those with the talents, but greedy excessive accumulation of wealth would be muted by taxation. Preferential tax deductions would be eliminated.

Better legislation for the protection of the environment would be enacted and non-polluting energy sources would be vigorously pursued.

Our two dysfunctional squabbling capitalist parties would need controls and a progressive social-democratic system, as in some Scandinavian countries, might evolve. Progressive candidates can be found in the Green Party and other parties.

David Keranen

Bakersfield, Calif.