Skip to content
Subscriber Only

How Did the World's Rich Get That Way? Luck

How Did the World's Rich Get That Way? Luck
Photograph by Stuart McClymont

Why are some people so rich and others so poor? Is it from good choices or good luck? Hard work, smarts, and ability—or something else? That depends who you are comparing yourself to. If you are more successful than your friends, colleagues, and family members, surely a lot of it is because you are better at what you do, or have made better choices, or have worked harder to get where you are. Think former President Bill Clinton, compared to his somewhat less successful brother.

But as the scale of comparison widens, the amount that’s due to the choices you made—compared to the uterus you gestated in—drops dramatically. That suggests we are a long way from equality of opportunity and that the rich are rewarded for the same effort far more than are the poor. It’s time to fix that.