"Countless factors beyond our choosing influence our [abilities,] ambition and effort, such as our upbringing, our family’s work ethic, our childhood experiences, subconscious insecurities, social milieu, career fads, role models, parental and peer pressure, available life paths, lucky breaks, and other contingent factors. It is not clear how much of it is our own doing, however militantly we may hold the illusion that we create our own life story...."
"Even if we somehow leveled socioeconomic disparities, the winners of the race would still be the fastest runners, due in part to a natural lottery. People are often born with certain talents and attributes—for instance, oratory, musical acumen, physical beauty and health, athleticism, good memory and cognition, extroversion, etc.—that give them unearned advantages. Are their wins not as arbitrary from a moral standpoint as of those born with silver spoons in their mouths? Further, is it not our dumb luck that our society happens to value certain aptitudes we may have—such as the leap and hand-eye coordination of Michael Jordan, sound-byte witticisms of talk show hosts like Jay Leno, or the algorithmic wizardry of Sergey Brin in the Internet age?"
"n Rawlsian terms, the problem in America is not that a minority has grown super rich, but that for decades now, it has done so to the detriment of the lower social classes. The big question is: why does the majority in a seemingly free society tolerate this, and even happily vote against its own economic interests? A plausible answer is that it is under a self-destructive meritocratic spell that sees social outcomes as moral desert—a spell at least as old as the American frontier but long since repurposed by the corporate control of public institutions and the media: news, film, TV, publishing, etc. Rather than move towards greater fairness and egalitarianism, it promotes a libertarian gospel of the free market with minimal regulation, taxation, and public safety nets. What would it take to break this spell?"What Do We Deserve? - 3 Quarks Daily
"It just so happens that I was in the right place at the right time. I really wouldn't have made a difference if I were born in Bangladesh. Or if I was born here in 1700. The odds of me being born here, in this time, were 1:50. And I just got lucky as hell. I won a lottery. Stick me some place other else and I could say I know how to allocate capital and value business. But they'd say, so what?" - Warren Buffett (investment guru; #3 on Forbes' 2011 list of world's richest people)