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How rich kids already won the career game (michaelochurch.wordpress.com)
301 points by violetmae on Mar 7, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 263 comments

"I believe my generation will overthrow the arbitrary and brutal authority of corporate capitalism and bigoted conservatism in favor of rationalistic, libertarian socialism driven by a scientific approach and a concern for universal social justice."

That's what my generation believed. And my parents' generation. And their parents....read some literature from 100 years ago, for example by the Fabians or other socialist writers. This little blasted thing called human nature always seems to screw things up....

Regarding the main point of the OP, I have a counterexample. I have a friend whose career has never taken off, who usually gets fired after a few months, and has never acquired any useful skills beyond blustering self-confidence. Why ? His father is a multi-millionaire who has arranged every job he's had, and bailed him out of every financial difficulty. He's never had to work a day in his life and has absolutely no ambition or drive.

That's not saying all rich kids suffer from what you might call the George W. Bush syndrome - but taking away the need to make money can also make people over-confident and lazy.

[On overthrowing the arbitrary authority:] That's what my generation believed. And my parents' generation. And their parents...

On my good days, I think your generation did a pretty good job. And your parents too. The amount of authority that has been overthrown in the last 100 years is pretty staggering. And I think we'll do a good job too.

The world is a mess. I widely despise our cultural practices. But I also see that there are armies of brilliant, good people working in the background to turn all of it around.

If you're talking total overthrow, then of course... tyranny will always remain. But I think overthrow for the better is a constant, largely monotonic process. And regression (for example, our collective environmental destruction) usually happens because the system is funtional, but unstable... people are living sustainably while living above a massive reservoir of free energy is not actually sustainable, because it's politically unstable.

So, while the system might get temporarily less functional (releasing greenhouse gasses), it is getting more stable (burning fossil fuels which are destabilizing materials).

Which is to say, I think we are overthrowing these arbitrary destructive structures.

>That's what my generation believed. And my parents' generation. And their parents

That doesn't mean it will never happen. The world is changing rapidly, it stands to reason that even more big changes could happen.

I think "human nature" is a bit of a red herring. We don't currently have any scientific way to separate how much of how people behave is social/environment programming and how much is "human nature".

> That doesn't mean it will never happen. The world is changing rapidly, it stands to reason that even more big changes could happen.

Rapidly compared to what ? 1900-1960 arguably saw more significant cultural, technological and political change than 1960-2010. The internet and mobile phone are about the only significant technological breakthroughs in my lifetime - in fact even they happened before my lifetime, but were not commonplace yet.

> I think "human nature" is a bit of a red herring. We don't currently have any scientific way to separate how much of how people behave is social/environment programming and how much is "human nature".

Well, we do have millenia of recorded history. Social mores may change, human nature less so.

>The internet and mobile phone are about the only significant technological breakthroughs in my lifetime

I don't know if you've noticed but these two are having some very large impact in the world right now. Dictators of 30 and 40 years are being cast off.

>Well, we do have millenia of recorded history. Social mores may change, human nature less so.

I think that's a pretty skewed view of history. Another way to see it might be that we used to mostly have largely anarchistic/socialist societies that were overrun by a few greedy people and we've spent the rest of our history taking back our freedoms from the elite few of our day.

Now you could say that even if we ever managed to get to a utopia state more greedy people will just show up but I would counter argue that e.g. Alexander the great wouldn't have gotten off the ground if people could have just sent a twitter to warn everyone else what he was up to.

>> I don't know if you've noticed but these two are having some very large impact in the world right now. Dictators of 30 and 40 years are being cast off.

Unfortunately, revolutions are nothing new. Bigger revolutions happened in the past quite impactfully without such technologies. These technologies perhaps add benefit in the arms race to better organize against government's controls for infrastructure, institutions, and society.

>> I think that's a pretty skewed view of history. Another way to see it might be that we used to mostly have largely anarchistic/socialist societies that were overrun by a few greedy people and we've spent the rest of our history taking back our freedoms from the elite few of our day. Now you could say that even if we ever managed to get to a utopia state more greedy people will just show up but I would counter argue that e.g. Alexander the great wouldn't have gotten off the ground if people could have just sent a twitter to warn everyone else what he was up to.

The same technology that people use for freedom, powers that be can use for more nefarious purposes. Technology in of itself is amoral and neutral. It's rather about who uses it more effectively. Today, the general populace perhaps has an advantage in that they're maybe more savvy than governments. Not necessarily will be the case all the time though. And besides that, it depends on whether people would love what Alexander stood for and would actually prefer to follow him. Look at what happened in Germany. Nobody better cite Godwin's Law here. Mein Kampf is seriously a great example of how a single idea, communication, or piece of media can rally the people to a cause that people in hindsight realized was incorrect. Technology can likewise be played by both sides.

> Unfortunately, revolutions are nothing new. Bigger revolutions happened in the past quite impactfully without such technologies.

3 major drivers of the European revolutions of the 1840s (the longest period of sustained, international revolutions in history) were newspapers, trains and telegraphs. Like today's internet, they were loosely controlled by the state. Information could pass from capital to capital within hours, sometimes within minutes.

The key dynamic is not the medium of transmission; it is whether the state has yet managed to control it.

> I don't know if you've noticed but these two are having some very large impact in the world right now. Dictators of 30 and 40 years are being cast off.

I'm sure the Jacobins had a totally cool Facebook page.

> Now you could say that even if we ever managed to get to a utopia state more greedy people will just show up but I would counter argue that e.g. Alexander the great wouldn't have gotten off the ground if people could have just sent a twitter to warn everyone else what he was up to.

That has to be the funniest thing I've read all day. If only poor King Darius III had a Twitter account.

>That has to be the funniest thing I've read all day. If only poor King Darius III had a Twitter account.

So you think that if the whole world would have been aware of what was happening they would have just sat back and watched? I think they would have all banded together to fight him at once rather than be picked off one at a time.

There's a strong motive to defect from cooperation, unfortunately. If 100 nations are discussing banding together to defend themselves, and everyone realizes it will only take 50 nations to repel an attack, then there is going to be a very strong incentive to be a free riding country.

Modern logistics (c.f. Walmart) is a hugely significant technological breakthrough, and is arguably the foundation of our modern economy. It's not obvious to consumers because it happened behind the scenes, but don't neglect it's significance.

Modern logistics developed mainly during the Second World War and post-war period, along with the computer revolution. My point is however that the last few decades have seen a refinement of more revolutionary changes in the first half of the twentieth century.

For example, from 1902 - 1960 we went from the Kitty Hawk to the jet passenger plane. From 1960 we went from the jet plane to .... ? We're still flying around in planes developed in the late 1960s/early 1970s. Sure, maybe they have better navigation systems, they might be safer and so on, but these are refinements rather than revolutionary changes.

So you're saying if any trend reaches an asymptote, technology is dead? Did you expect planes to be the size of skyscrapers by now? In any case the limiting factors there are economics, not technology. We could build a flying skyscraper, if we really wanted to.

In any case the standards of technology are always the thing that's changing the fastest. In the early 20th century, it was transport and chemistry. Today it's computing and biotechnology.

In 1900, noone could predict jumbo jets of 1960s. In 1960s, noone could predict we would still be flying same jumbo jets of 1960s in 2010.

I mean, it's 60 years. Imagine yourself transported to 2070 only to find people still using Twitter from their Android phones.

People would probably be shocked by how cheap airfares are now though. Aviation technology has favoured seat cost over speed and that does show.

Physical laws and economic realities constrain technological progress. In the case of aircraft the possibilities allowed these laws and realities were exhausted in 60 years. No point being upset about it.

Show a 1960s jet passenger the price tag on a cheap around-the-world ticket, and his eyes will fall out.

> I think "human nature" is a bit of a red herring. We don't currently have any scientific way to separate how much of how people behave is social/environment programming and how much is "human nature".

That's not really true. The problem is that the "blank slate" view had a complete victory in the political class but the research hasn't been backing it up.

Larry Summers and James Watson were both run out of their jobs for publicly asking the wrong questions.

With that background "libertarian socialism driven by a scientific approach" sounds like a bit of a lie.

"I think "human nature" is a bit of a red herring. We don't currently have any scientific way to separate how much of how people behave is social/environment programming and how much is "human nature"."

Nope. There's been lots of good research in the last several decades. We are not "blank slates", behavior is largely genetic ("human nature"):


The point of the OP was IF the rich kid works just like the regular kid, then he'll still be ahead.

One of the reasons people get rich is to provide for their kids. That's a more realistic motive than providing for society as a whole, and a more noble motive than funding hedonism.

I wouldn't want to live in a society where rich kids don't have an advantage, because that's a society with either debased rich people or no rich people.

"A society where rich kids don't have any advantage" is reductio ad absurdum.

No one is talking about that. We're simply talking about meritocracy, which has been the path of progress since the Enlightenment.

It in no way debases the rich if Johnny can't get into a top university because his Daddy can't buy his way in.

This only works if you can compare a rich kid and a regular kid who had the same opportunities, particularly educational but also in terms of their friends, etc. Otherwise there's no control. Presumably, we spend all this money on education so that it results in more success for the same amount of work later in life.

One thing I've noticed, anecdotally: kids who grew up in Manhattan have parents or know parents who were investment bankers, corporate lawyers, etc. This gives them a leg up in getting into those professions over kids whose parents were in more common occupations, if only because they know more about those industries. It has nothing to do with their attitude. I'm guessing that it's no coincidence that lots of successful actors and musicians have successful actor parents, too: Charlie Sheen, anyone?

Hard work is very different from skills/talent or luck. The OP is claiming that the rich kid has a different/better personality skill set from the regular kid based on his wealth, and I disagree with that. I believe the rich kid has more opportunities, yes, but I don't believe rich kids are bred to have a better personality to take advantage of those opportunities. Therefore, it falls upon our society which looks at other factors instead of valuing merit for merit's sake.

Let's assume the two kids are just as driven as each other, with the rich kids having more opportunities. I do not believe that the rich kid will always have the social skills, technical skills, brains, passion, or dedication to take advantage of those opportunities. The rich kid may be a very mediocre person by merit, but because the regular kid doesn't have access to these opportunities, our society will select the rich kid for this opportunity because he looks good on paper and for lack of other merited kids to pick from. So yes, the rich kid will be ahead PURELY because he had exclusive access to an opportunity or because society wanted to pick a better resume, but NOT because the rich kid has a better skill set or is more well adjusted than the regular kid based on their wealth backgrounds. This disproves the OP's point.

I'm not sure you've really disproved anybody's point.

Consider that a rich kid's parents will likely spend hundreds of thousands of dollars (if not more) on their child's education, on everything from the best preschools to a top prep school to an Ivy League university. Do you really think those schools offer nothing in exchange for all that money, aside from some better social connections and big names on someone's resume?

It's very, very difficult to reduce the impact of a lifetime of educational and social advantages down to something like "different/better personality skill set," and I think in doing so you are woefully underestimating what kind of benefits those advantages bring.

I'm not underestimating the benefits of those advantages at all. But those are opportunities bought with money. I know plenty of my peers from Ivy League schools who had the personality/skills to take advantage of everything their private schools and Ivy League upbringing had to offer - studying abroad, discussing with the best professors, etc. But I also know plenty from this same group of peers who have had access to these opportunities but are still softspoken and shy, or nervous when speaking with people, or have insecurity issues, or are elitist snobs who turn people off, so on and so forth. Sure, maybe they took Calculus in high school and have a PHD in whatever metaphysics but does that mean they are better adjusted to take advantage of all the opportunities that money has bought them? In fact, if you have 2 kids, one rich and one average, the rich one being socially ill-adjusted (because his parents were hyper-ambitious) and the average kid being happy-go-lucky, smart, and resourceful (because his parents nurtured his childhood with love and taught him the skills of problem solving and confidence), assuming they had the same opportunities, which do you think would do better in an interview? Obviously I'd like the say the latter, but that then brings up the point of whether society values the better resume and lesser merit or vice versamore.

"Libertarian Socialism"? Best oxymoron ever.

Only to those in the U.S. In most of the world, "libertarian" means left-wing, and anti-capitalist.

Its sad how inconstant political terms are. Liberal today implies support for a lot of programs it didn't in Jefferson's time.

I don't understand 'anarcho communism' -- wouldn't that be the overthrow of government to establish communism? How is it different than regular communism?

"Liberal" and "conservative" are relative terms. Obviously their absolute meaning changes as the median relative to which they are defined changes.

As for anarcho-communism, it distinguishes communism involving a strong central authority from communism involving no or decentralized authority.

Of the 100+ comments so far, relatively little has been said about the benefit to one's career of knowing upper class (or even just upper middle class) social rules. I'm not referring to the obvious ones like which fork to use at a restaurant but rather to the more subtle ones like what constitutes appropriate small talk. A 23 year-old from any socio-economic background might not have sufficient knowledge to contribute in a particular high-level meeting with a client. However, the kid from the upper class background is more likely to have proven in subtle ways that he is unlikely to be an embarrassment. So, the upper SES kid gets to attend the meeting as a learning experience. That the kid might be able to relate socially to the client (I went to Ivy XYZ with your neighbor's son, etc.) is icing on the cake.

This is dead on. I had a summer internship with a prestigious law firm. During the initial meet and greet between the interns and partners, one of my fellow interns admitted to not working after college in favor of "just traveling the world, surfing." To my shock, the partner was impressed by this answer. I was dumbfounded.

(PROTIP: usually "traveling the world surfing" is only possible if you are independently wealthy or willing to live like a hobo).

"traveling the world surfing" is within the reach of anyone who can afford the initial airfare, provided it's to somewhere you can live cheaply and survive on odd jobs. Think Morocco not Maui, Indo not California. There is a happy medium between 5 star hotels and living like a hobo...

Why would this shock you? Don't you find it interesting/impressive?

I am not particularly impressed with people who, by virtue of being born into money, spend years of their lives engaged in various unproductive pursuits.

I do find it interesting that someone named johngalt would be impressed by someone living the benefits of unearned wealth. Perhaps you should have adopted a more appropriate username. Were philiprearden and jamestaggart taken?

While it's not what I would choose for my kids, the money isn't uneared. His parents or ancestors earned it and spending it on him is what they want to do. It's not like he took it from them by force? FYI, objectivists are also allowed to buy birthday presents for their toddlers.

Do I find the idea of traveling the world and surfing interesting? Yes I do. Would I consider that adequate job experience? Not at all.

Remove the chip from your shoulder. Someone who wasn't you was able to do something fun. Don't be jealous of that.

While it's not what I would choose for my kids, the money isn't uneared. His parents or ancestors earned it

Oh, come on. You're just spliting hairs. I'm not jealous of it, but in no way is it earned.

> FYI, objectivists are also allowed to buy birthday presents for their toddlers.

I thought they weren't allowed to have toddlers in the first place.

The obsession with manners and etiquette is more of an upper-middle-class trait than upper class. It's supposedly driven by the desire to differentiate themselves from the "middle class". Quantitatively they've shown this is why you see more use of latinate words in that group (like "Limousine" rather than "car") relative to folks who are truly in the top 1-5% by wealth.

That said, I don't think this factor is an issue for just about anyone who graduated from an Ivy-League or comparable college. In my experience at front-office corporate jobs, someone unable to present themselves reasonably at a client meeting, even at 20 or 21 (we had college interns) would simply never have been hired, but I don't remember it ever actually being a problem.

When I used to interview a lot of college kids, I found that I could guess accurately within a few minutes of conversation which had lived in a dorm/frat house/whatever and which had lived at home while going to college. The differences in social skills and worldliness/perspective were immense. Was this due to the effects of being surrounded by a bunch of relatively ambitious young people or was it due to the socio-economic selection bias inherent in the decision to live at home while attending school? Although I have read nothing to back up this claim, I presume that there is a positive correlation between high family income and the decision to go "away" for college. Living with one's parents implies going to a local college/university vs. the one which is a tight fit with one's goals. Also, it seems that those kids who live at home socialize with their local friends who, more often than not by virtue of still living in the town where they grew up, are less ambitious and worldly. Causation is hard to tease out, but correlation is definitely present, at least based on my sampling from doing college interviewing in the Cleveland area (another cause of selection bias, of course).

I've seen this to a lesser extent comparing those who go in-state and out-of-state, but by the end of college it becomes more what you've chosen to do at In-State U.

I went out-of-state, then moved back to live at home (HN helped keep me in a wider loop). Relatively unambitious fellow students were the most demotivating part of this.

I'd imagine this pattern would depend on locality. For example, I live in CT and went to school in RI. I chose to live at home to save taking out additional loans for room and board, but I wasn't really separated from campus life, or even college towns for that matter (My parents lived by an art school and a state college).

However, were I do to the same in an area with fewer educational institutions per sq. mile, I may not have had that experience.

I agree. Let's take Boston as the extreme example of where one could choose a nearly "optimal" college while still living at home. Local availability of good education options coupled with the high cost of off-campus housing in the area probably makes the adverse selection bias I observed in Cleveland much weaker in Boston. In Ohio, off-campus housing is generally cheaper than living in a dorm room. However, I'm told that dorms are coveted at places like NYU because the universities effectively subsidize rents compared to market rates.

Very interesting, another single data point. My brother (went to school at the University of Milwaukee) lived at home while attending. Ambition has never been a strong suit of his.

Exactly same dynamics as in dating: If you appear like you've been single for a year, you'll have a difficult time. If you look like you just came back from the bedroom of a runway model you'll be surrounded by women.

The key here is attitude. While your upbringing influences that, you can always make a choice to be the relaxed rich kid. Even if your parents' income says differently.

This is pretty much why people with out jobs can't find them and the only hiring going on is for people with jobs. The most important thing in any situation is to act like you should be doing that.

Yep. This is the same reason that would-be underage drinkers are always asked for ID every time they try and go to the bar, right up until the day they reach the drinking age.

From that point on you're never asked for ID. The bartender can tell from your walk, your gaze and your speech that you have it, just like before they could tell that you didn't.

The bartender does that only until he gets busted by a police sting operation.

A good friend of mine had his nascent teaching career destroyed when he some confident-looking 20 year old chick dropped a 6 pack of Bud Light on the counter of the store he managed part-time. He didn't bother asking for ID (which he was typically pretty strict about) and was led out in cuffs.

He received a conditional dismissal after 3 years of probation, but explaining a 3+ year career gap ("So, why did you quit teaching after 6 months to fix cars?") takes you off the fast track.

Where the hell do you live, Singapore? That law is draconian.

In Singapore, the drinking age is 18, so he actually would've been fine.

New York State.

Welcome to America. We were founded by Puritans.

How much do you actually know about Puritans? Most of what I learned about them in high school came from works of fiction. It was a pretty unfair picture, in retrospect.

It's standard-operating-procedure for the US, from my experience.

It's a fine and the venue faces temporary suspension of their liquor licence here in Australia. But gaol terms!? (or at least career ruining probation terms, presumably judgement is meant to factor in the impact of the decision?).

I think things are a bit different in the US.

Clerks do get charged in the U.S. fairly regularly, depending on the state. In many states, it's a strict-liability offense to sell alcohol to a minor, without the prosecutor having to prove intent. Usually the clerk is exempted from liability if the minor showed a fake ID (that wasn't so bad as to be obviously fake), or if the minor looked clearly over 26 or 30, or whatever the state's threshhold must-ask-for-ID age is. If it's a 20-year-old who didn't clearly look 30+, though, and you didn't ask for ID, it's a criminal offense (in some states).

In some states the clerk is required to check ID on everyone, even 70 year old guys with canes. It's ridiculous, but the intent was to remove the element of judgment entirely.

Parent said this was in New York State.

I understood JonnieCache to be highlighting how different things are in the US to most of the rest of the world.

I once gave somebody my ID when I was 20 in order to get into a 21+ show. I really wanted to see this band, and I figured the worse thing that would happen is I'd get turned down and have to sell my ticket. So I went in, threw down my ID, and the girl looked a bit confused, but let me in anyways. To be fair, it was only 3 months before my birthday, but I did it in total confidence.

She probably thought I must be 21 because who would throw down proof they weren't 21 in order to get into a 21+ show.

Before that, I worked customer service at a grocery store for a while too, and it got to the point that I could tell who stole something in order to return it by just how they were standing in line waiting, and even if that didn't help, their first few words would give it away. Of course, that didn't mean I couldn't help them. My boss actually was really upset when I told one person to never come back... go figure.

Nah, I still get carded all the time ;) I look like I'm 19 (or so they say). Although, it is true that the more expensive the place, the less they care. When I actually was 19 (and looked 17) I got offered a long island iced tea at a new place in the city that was ~$40-50 an entrée.

It's also likely that the prior for any given customer being underage is much lower at a more expensive establishment - 16 year-olds don't generally have the cash to splash out.

That was the assumption I went with.

I actually had the opposite experience: I never got carded until after I was old enough to drink.

Why down voting?

Die HN die, the parent comment was -2 when I posted my question.

The article seems to me a just-so story. The author might be ignorant of the rich kids who end up as drug addicts or at the very least entirely economically unproductive simply because they can. They've got nothing to loose by not kowtowing to the bosses but nothing to gain by working hard either as they've already got everything laid on a plate for them.

However I think there often is something different in the attitudes of people with rich and poor upbringings. But from the article the kid whose parents earn $125,000 and who was bright and went to a top tier school will likely have all the doors open to him and the self confidence to take advantage of it. Any attitude difference above that level of income is mostly accounted for by individual personality and intelligence. Someone however who was born to a working class family and grew up surrounded by people in blue collar jobs might not have the confidence or social network to climb as high. Or at least the path is noticeably steeper.

And on a personal note, I disagree with the comment "He has the right air about him, and the same freedom from anxiety and free-flowing creative energy of a college student because, for him, college (i.e. the time of life in which most middle-class peoples’ lives peak) never ended." At university things were just starting to get really fun. I'm mid thirties now and looking forward to the fun that's around the corner. Not only is the glass half full, but it's champagne and the cute waitress is coming round with refills.

"At university things were just starting to get really fun. I'm mid thirties now and looking forward to the fun that's around the corner. Not only is the glass half full, but it's champagne and the cute waitress is coming round with refills."

As a college student I often worry that my life will become more boring after I graduate. What's your secret?

The drug addict richkids are the exception to the rule. You have to be very focused and sometimes oblivious to feedback from your social cycle make a quantum leap in careers if you come from a working class background (rich kids get it for free).

I wholeheartedly agree with your last comment. University student == immature anxiety. Being careless does not equal fun, creativity, reward and, most of all, challenge. It's a popular culture stereotype i 've come to hate vehemently.

I whole heartedly agree with this, it also really felt like the post author was describing a really specific situation. Perhaps one where he was that middle class guy and the other guy was someone who just got the raise he wanted. I don't know, but the whole article came across as trying to blame failure to thrive on forces outside of one's control. In fact it might be more to do with bravery, personality and intelligence. I'm from a middle class background and have never had a problem saying what I think to senior management right up to CEO level, I am from a contracting background though and so perhaps I've never settled in one place long enough to get scared of losing my job.

Anyway from what the original poster describes I think someone in this particular middle class guys position would find working for a web technology company much more rewarding and fulfilling. Corporate structure tends to be less top down and more open and inclusive. For anyone in this position who is thinking of moving jobs perhaps they'd like to refactor their résumé using my new app:


Invites will be sent out soon.

I'm guessing the downvotes are because I've crossed the line I was worried about in this post:


Apologies, I really didn't want to come across as being spammy.

"The difference is that children of wealth traverse it at a height of one meter over a mattress, while the middle-class and poor traverse it at a height of 20 meters over a lava pit."

I notice no one is commenting on this part. Namely, that for children of financial privilege, the risk/reward ratio for a career is markedly skewed compared to their middle class peers.

It's largely true, but depressing and unfix-able.

It's really bad with jobs that expect you to "pay your dues" at the beginning, yet still socialize with co-workers at restaurants after work. People from a more modest background are seen as anti-social when they really just have a cash flow problem.

There's a negative feedback loop.

It's fixable.

Financial security and social familiarization aren't the only sources of confidence. Understanding of skills' value, faith in the ability to learn new skills, curiousity about what others find valuable and willingness to provide it -- no one who has these has much deep anxiety about pleasing the boss. If the boss likes them, great! If not, they're happy to move somewhere that appreciates what they add. Confidence is out there for anyone willing to learn and work.

What more is there to say? I think he is saying the same thing you are but in a more colorful tone.

To comment: is he saying that the things you need to do to advance your career inside a large institution are actually risky? I don't think so, it's more like he's saying the non rich live in constant fear of getting sacked for stepping out of line, and this fear itself stops them advancing their career, rather than the inherent risk of any career gambit. As such, his point is somewhat tenuous.

I know someone from a background like that. I don't think he's really smarter,more skilled, or even more confident in 99% of situations. But in those few it's like Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade - he can step out over the pit fully sure he'll be ok.

You can't learn that kind of confidence. You have to truly believe you will be just fine.

A rich child has a much higher standard to live up to, and much more to lose. If I'm an eight figure trust fund kid and I screw up bad I end up being middle class. If I'm middle class and screw up I end up middle class.

> If I'm middle class and screw up I end up middle class.

No, you end up working a crappy part time job at a call center with no benefits and no future, desperately trying to convince yourself that you're still middle class because you work a telephone instead of a mop.

So the real issue here is that everyone wants to be "better". It's not about rich people, it's that you think you're too good to clean things for a living. In your view, who deserves to work that mop?

There is nothing wrong with working a mop. Median Janitor salary is $25k, if you and your wife are both janitors, you have a $50k/yr household. You can pay the bills and give your family a middle class lifestyle. Probably still better than the life you were raised in.

Conversely a child of wealth that loses it all will have a significantly more difficult time giving his children the same life that he had. Someone who has a lot also has more to lose.

Given the handle I assume debating this with you is a losing proposition, but - it's not a matter of how far you fall, relatively. The middle class person who falls into poverty may lose the ability to feed themselves. The wealthy person who falls into the middle class does not.

That said, I would rate it as highly unlikely that a truly wealthy individual could end up falling into the middle class through anything short of titanic ineptitude.

Much of this essay is based on the idea of social capital,


I've found a lot of people, especially in the upper- and upper-middle classes, often deny the importance of social capital, but I find it to be very important.

Someone from wealth can lose all of their money, and still have the social capital necessary the maintain their class status.

My problem with the essay is that the author assumes complete causation between social capital and real capital. He goes from socio-economic status to personality traits without acknowledging at all what he has done.

Its a good point - regardless of wealth class, someone with relatively less social capital may feel compelled to focus on building his social capital instead of focusing solely on the merit of contribution.

He missed some of the other reasons a son-of-a-rich is more likely to have it better in the workplace: experience with business. A SOR is more likely to have grown up around people who talk the talk of high finance, and have friends with the same experience. They are more comfy with those in the business, and those in the business are more comfy with them, because they can speak the same language.

My father worked in a factory, as a member of a union, and I grew up not having the first clue about how the market or business works.

In technical fields, those who grow up in the middle class probably know someone with intricate technical knowledge, and who is a master of their art, even if it is a mechanic, electrician or HVAC repairman, and have picked up at least the feel of the technical jargon from them.

Slightly related, on This American Life over the week-end, they interviewed several people who work in finance at some of the firms who were bailed out by TARP, and they all swore that they had their high-paying job because of their superior talent, and deserved to get payed their tax-payer inflated salaries because they were smarter than most other people. They all complained that Pres. Obama was a meanie to big businesses, trying to tell them what to do and all, and should just leave them alone.

I think this article is preaching to the wrong crowd here on HN. A entrepreneur is by definition an upstart, an usurper who is out to break the conventions. You can't do this by being a quite yes man.

That said what percentage of entrepreneurs, successful or not come from rich backgrounds? This article's ideas would apply two fold to the startup arena where you cannot get anywhere simply by running on the hamster wheel.

Relatedly, 60% of NBA Stars are bankrupt within 5 years after retirement:


  Filing for bankruptcy is a long-standing tradition 
  for NBA players, 60% of whom, according to the Toronto 
  Star, are broke five years after they retire. 
So it's not completely true that wealth is an advantage that cannot be squandered. And in the US there was a saying that used to be more popular -- "from shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations".


  But many more smaller figures of the Robber Baron age 
  made immense fortunes, took no care of them, were not 
  of a generous or philanthropic nature, handed the money 
  on as a life belt to their sons who then squandered it, 
  so much so that their sons returned to the shirtsleeves 
  in which grandfather had landed in the United States.
To the extent that the unusual combination of traits required to create enormous wealth is at all heritable, it is certainly imperfectly heritable. This is augmented by the fact that when you have large families, the wealth is divided among all children. So insofar as we think of income mobility as a good thing, it's actually abetted in part by highly imperfect heritability and large family size.

(Not driving at any particular point here, just some interesting links of relevance to thinking on income mobility).

I have a friend who worked for a "wealth management" firm here in Europe, and they had code names for all of their clients for privacy.

One of his clients asked for the code name "962" because that was the year the family had made their fortume. (!)

But as my friend told me, one of the main reasons they were able to keep the money in the family is that the vast majority of it passed to the eldest son, with other children getting only very little. It'd be interesting to know the relative entrepreneurial nature of kids that grow up wealthy, but don't get any real money.

Note that in more rigid societies in particular, wealth can be somewhat uncorrelated with status. Being the child of a notable family with a lot of connections can give one more opportunities, even if the family (or that branch of it) is not actually very well off.

Re sports players going broke, I think that's because they acquire a lifestyle proportionate to their income at an age when they're too young to understand that their lifetime income is front-loaded. For the first 5 or 10 years of their career, they only move up in value and income; they're not fully aware that they're going to fall off an income cliff, and they ought to be spending no more than 10 to 20% of what they earn on consumption.

(paraphrasing but) "There is nothing so easily parted as a fool and his money".

The NBA thing makes perfect sense to me. I see a lot of (god I hate the term but it has the meaning I want to convey) "Nouveau Riche" here in NZ who just blow it on the stupidest stuff. All that really shows is that there are two aspects to having money 1. Having the ability and freedom to make consumption decisions that were not available to you when you didn't have money. 2. the flipside of that is knowing how to keep it.

I think there's a lot of education and responsibility that comes with being wealthy and a lot of people who have been raised without money don't have the requisite knowledge and financial management skills to keep the new found fortune that they never expected to make that they suddenly find themselves in possession of.

TL;DR not only are the rich richer than us, they're better at being rich than we are - because they're already rich.

"NBA star" != "NBA players"

That's true enough, parent should have been more careful in word choice. But it doesn't change the fact that even the worst players get paid a significant amount of money and should be able to retire just fine, if they knew how to manage their money.

I was going to argue with this but after some research, NBA players really do get decent minimums. In other sports, you can be the last pro who managed to not get cut and only get $100k per year, which is nice but isn't "retire after five years of it" money either. In the NBA, the minimum salary for a rookie is still $490k and it goes up to $788k after one year. That really is "retire after five years of it" money.

Entrepreneurs, hopefully/eventually, hire people as well. I am sure there are positions where this knowledge and understanding might play a role, for instance, sales. Depending on your own background, you may have similar expectations/bias as your own socio-economic group and be attracted to them subconsciously.

Maybe it's different in the US, but in the UK there's no statistical difference between earnings 3.5 years after university graduation due to parental background once you adjust for university/degree subject.

(children from poorer backgrounds are less likely to go into good universities or study high-earning subjects, but if they do then they'll earn as much as their better off peers)

That's quite an interesting observation I don't seem to have seen trumpeted (enough) during the battles over tuition fee increases. Do you have a citation for it?

I don't have the citation to hand, but I'm pretty sure the research came from the Sutton Trust who specialize in this area.

In some areas (e.g. law) I wouldn't expect there to be much difference in that time - in Scotland at least, 3.5 years after you graduate with a law degree you've only been qualified for 6 months! (The law degree is followed by a postgraduate course for a year then two years training before you qualify).

I'd be interested to see the results for 10 years after graduating!

Only a tiny percentage of law graduates go onto become lawyers (<10%), so it's probably doesn't have a significant impact on the overall data even for law degrees.

Certainly it's possible that in some careers that there is a divide, but due to the the careers not being common that it doesn't show up in the stats. But there's no evidence this is the case.

That's remarkable - do you have a source with more info?

I notice that I am confused, and echo the "citation needed".

As a citizen of both worlds, I'll say the authors story rings very true. When I first came to the US, I did totally entitled from years of being upper class in a small third world country.. it took me several years to realize that I was now a very small fish in a huge pond where opportunities didn't just materialized for you and problems easily faded away.

20 years later I find myself moved up to a pretty good on that big pond mainly because of good opportunities in the tech industry but I would strongly agree with the author that a lot of that success was achieved through the Mojo that a complete lack of fear of failure gives you.

The career game is not nearly as important now as it was a couple decades ago, though. Now you can easily opt to be judged directly by market, by starting your own company. Customers don't know or care what your social origins are.

Wow, that's a slanted view of the world!

Outside of the software industry, which is a tiny (~1%) portion of the economy, what has changed since 1995? Suppose you're an investment banker, and you hate your boss, as most investment bankers do. Want to start your own investment bank? How? You need to have connections to upper management at lots and lots of companies, so you can arrange deals. And very few people have that.

Or, suppose you're an accountant. Can you start your own accounting practice? Sure, maybe, it's not a crazy idea. But is it really any different than it was 15 years ago? You still need to get a reputation, build up a client list, market yourself well, etc. Not much has really changed.

Or, even, suppose that you're in another, non-software tech industry, like pharmaceuticals. That's way harder than it was 15 years ago, because of tighter FDA regulation. Just try getting a drug to market with less than $100,000,000 in capital, and very few people can raise that kind of capital.

The technology business may only be one component of the economy, but attracts a disproportionate share of ambitious people.

If you want to avoid social logjams, all you need is one domain where people aren't judged by their origins, and the people who want to get ahead will find it. History is full of examples of that. The world of startups is certainly a large and conspicuous enough target.

Sure, but the post appears to be addressing everyone, or at least everyone who has a job and wants to be paid well, not just super-ambitious people. He says:

"For the individual, I can offer no personal solution to this deep sociological problem. As far as I know, there’s none. I would advise those who are sufficiently talented to work in technology, which tends to be more meritocratic than other industries, and to avoid old-style business. Beyond that, I know of no solution."

ie, this is true for everyone outside of technology, not just the ambitious.

Don't forget the barriers to entry for technology. You have to have some combination of math, computer skills, and design knowledge, either a balance or amazing proficiency at one of them, so that rules out anyone who has been told they're "not a tech guy." On top of all that you practically have to be _over-confident_ in your skills and take a huge risk doing a startup.

You might say ambitious people wouldn't be subject to those restraints, but if we could do away with cognitive tendencies we wouldn't be dealing with these class barriers anyway.

Or, even, suppose that you're in another, non-software tech industry, like pharmaceuticals. That's way harder than it was 15 years ago, because of tighter FDA regulation. Just try getting a drug to market with less than $100,000,000 in capital, and very few people can raise that kind of capital.

Hell, even IN the tech industry... I'm extremely interested in VLSI, and I'm told most commercial available processing units cost in excess of $1,000,000,000 just to reach the first actual chip!

I know lots of people who started their own companies in fields that have nothing to do with technology, investment banking, etc. Most of them are doing well. Look around you - there are businesses everywhere. All started by someone. Heck, the woman down the street started a barber shop in an empty slot in a local strip mall.

With twitter, and social media, and all these email addresses all over web, if you have absolute merit then you can make those connections. It's a matter of persistence.

Investment banker: Work hard where you're at and then steal the client list to go start your own shop. If you're really better than the boss you hate people will flock to you. Make sure the clients see you as a go-getter.

That investment shop will have every banker arguing that they deserve a gigantic compensation package. Add's a lot of overhead that you won't have starting out.

Accounting: Like most professional services the web has revolutionized accounting. You can now trivially have your accounting done anywhere in the world. How about you start your own shop by hiring and managing overseas workers? Or how about a cadre of accountants based in a low cost area of the US? Since 1995 other industries have been transformed by technology MORE than the tech sector. Netflix/iPod/Kindle anyone?

You've got me on pharmaceuticals, but it seems that regulation is the key here. I doubt communism would help with that.

"Investment banker: Work hard where you're at and then steal the client list to go start your own shop."

That's actually the one action where a non-compete is universally and trivially enforceable in all 50 states. As I understand it, IANAL. Additionally, it's unethical if you believe in that sort of thing. So, bad idea.

Not sure what communism has to do with anything. At all.

If you sign a non-compete, are you surprised that it's difficult to go out and found a competing organization? If you can't manage starting your own investment firm, then you apply what you've learned as a banker to a different slice of the pie. Fundamentally you're looking at ways it won't work rather than looking at ways it can work.

"Not sure what communism has to do with anything. At all." The article? Specifically mentioned communism as the solution to these problems? If you're pointing to regulation as a barrier to entry then what the article recommends wouldn't help.

EDIT: Excuse me it advocates the universal solidarity of social justice to promote the overthrow of capitalism in the name of socialism whew, good thing I caught that. Someone could have confused socialism with communism.

One reason you don't see bankers doing that is that their comp is already set to about 1/2 the revenue they bring in. (Banks target to have 50% of their banking revenue go to salaries.) Plus, you get reduced income volatility by pooling risk with the other bankers. So maybe they give up 10% of your income of $1MM plus, but they also don't have years when you make zero (and I've seen Managing Directors at a bank go a full year without closing a deal that generates revenue - it can take years to close an M&A or equity deal depending on the client.)

It's such a good deal that while you see bankers jumping from one big bank to another to improve their deal, you rarely see them starting a new bank.

Or if your dad is super rich, he can just give you enough enough money to start your own hedge fund at 25. Connections beat skill more often than we'd like to admit.

Sadly, this is not a hypothetical. I belong to a yacht club with more than 25-30 y/o living this exact dream.

Ok, so build your connections working as a banker?

People will like or dislike you for a number of reasons/bias. I once had a high dollar investment customer that would only deal with me because of my attitude. Others that refused to deal with me because of my attitude. Trying to say that there is one "right" way to act and it only comes with money just isn't accurate. One of the first things you realize with banking is how varied or even normal rich people are.

There is no one shibboleth used to filter out the people that don't belong. Judgementally approaching them, and acting like they are all elitist exclusionary cronies will make them happily oblige your fantasy.

An analyst/associate is not going to be able to go off and start his own boutique if he can't even make it to MD in an existing firm(s).

That's definitely true (to an extent) in tech, but other fields aren't so lucky.

A few months ago, a friend of mine who's a lawyer with 5 years experience told me that where he went to school for undergrad is still one of the most important things on his resume. Blew my mind.

Other tech industries that are more capital intensive (bio, mechanical) are a lot harder to just start a business in, and for softer skills there's no way to quantify you to begin with so connections matter a lot for the first few jobs. Anyone could learn to program and start a web business, of course, but the barriers aren't quite so low in other industries yet.

There are things that a small group can't accomplish (building an oil pipeline for example). However, a little expertise and the right scope could attack the industry obliquely. Rather than try to build the whole system perhaps you have a small part of it that you make. You can't build the pipeline, but maybe you can build a better O-ring seal.

By definition, there will always be an order of magnitude more people working as employees of successful companies playing the career game than there are founders of successful companies.

This is only "by definition" if companies are always big. Perhaps they'll get smaller over time?

But startups often need investors, and you're more likely to get investors before you have product or traction if you're neither too aggressive nor too passive. Charming, in short.

This was an whiny and awful post about "life isn't fair". The socially outgoing and confident worker will always outperform his socially awkward counterpart of equal intelligence. It doesn't matter that he came from a wealthy family, what matters is he has MORE skills. It isn't discrimination until you start hiring the less wealthy (with less skills) because of the fact that they're less wealthy.

"This was an whiny and awful post about 'life isn't fair'."

It wasn't whiny at all.

"The socially outgoing and confident worker will always outperform his socially awkward counterpart of equal intelligence. It doesn't matter that he came from a wealthy family, what matters is he has MORE skills."

This was the author's point.

No, his point was that rich kids have better attitudes, skills and perceived work ethic which is simply not true.

"Middle-class kids generally fuck up their first few years of the career game in one of two ways." - really??

"His point was that rich kids have better attitudes, skills and perceived work ethic which is simply not true."

I mean I can point you to any number of academic studies confirming this, e.g. Hart & Risley's Meaningful Differences book.

Or just go to any elite private university and compare the kids who are there during summer session with the kids who are there during the rest of the year. The only real difference is SES, as you can't apply financial aid to summer session classes, and you also can't be there if you need a job over the summer. And yet the kids are completely different than the ones who are there during the regular school year.

Sure, can you link me to an academic study that shows the average "rich kid" has a better attitude or work ethic than average kid in the middle class? Of course going to an elite university will show highly motivated students (of all classes). However, it doesn't show the rich kids who decided to do nothing with their lives because they've been pampered 24/7.

Rather than link you to an individual study, here is a link to an NYT Magazine article that summarizes many studies about how the attitudes of high-SES ("rich kids") students are more highly valued ("better") than those of middle class and poor kids. You can find all of the primary source studies via the article.

"In her book “Unequal Childhoods,” published in 2003, Lareau described the costs and benefits of each approach and concluded that the natural-growth method had many advantages. Concerted cultivation, she wrote, “places intense labor demands on busy parents. ... Middle-class children argue with their parents, complain about their parents’ incompetence and disparage parents’ decisions.” Working-class and poor children, by contrast, “learn how to be members of informal peer groups. They learn how to manage their own time. They learn how to strategize.” But outside the family unit, Lareau wrote, the advantages of “natural growth” disappear. In public life, the qualities that middle-class children develop are consistently valued over the ones that poor and working-class children develop. Middle-class children become used to adults taking their concerns seriously, and so they grow up with a sense of entitlement, which gives them a confidence, in the classroom and elsewhere, that less-wealthy children lack. The cultural differences translate into a distinct advantage for middle-class children in school, on standardized achievement tests and, later in life, in the workplace.

...The disadvantages that poverty imposes on children aren’t primarily about material goods. True, every poor child would benefit from having more books in his home and more nutritious food to eat (and money certainly makes it easier to carry out a program of concerted cultivation). But the real advantages that middle-class children gain come from more elusive processes: the language that their parents use, the attitudes toward life that they convey. However you measure child-rearing, middle-class parents tend to do it differently than poor parents — and the path they follow in turn tends to give their children an array of advantages. As Lareau points out, kids from poor families might be nicer, they might be happier, they might be more polite — but in countless ways, the manner in which they are raised puts them at a disadvantage in the measures that count in contemporary American society.

What would it take to overcome these disadvantages? Does poverty itself need to be eradicated, or can its effects on children somehow be counteracted? Can the culture of child-rearing be changed in poor neighborhoods, and if so, is that a project that government or community organizations have the ability, or the right, to take on? Is it enough simply to educate poor children in the same way that middle-class children are educated? And can any school, on its own, really provide an education to poor minority students that would allow them to achieve the same results as middle-class students?"


As for work ethic, how are you defining work? Time on task? Emotional labor? Social loafing? Intrinsic motivation? Extrinsic motivation? Protestant Work Ethic? Locus of control? Prosocial behaviors?

There are at least a dozen different academic disciplines that study issues related to work ethic, so the question of how work ethic correlates with SES isn't really answerable as it currently stands.

The issue with this study in the context of the OP is this study discusses middle class vs poor. The OP discussed high class vs middle class. The main assertion of those who have argued against the OP is that high class vs middle class doesn't matter. I don't think people have seriously argued that middle class vs poor doesn't matter.

Good point, though that's really just the summary from the magazine. The actual Hart-Risley study (which was mostly the basis for the passage I quoted) shows that the relationship between SES and achievement is fairly linear, as are the relationships between SES and the factors that lead to achievement. I don't have time to scan in the entire appendix of the study, but here is a quick snap from Hart-Risley:


You could probably say the same thing about the summer session at most universities. The kids willing to give up their summers for education have a different level of drive than the ones that attend the rest of the year.

Not that summer session is always the best course of action. An internship will go a lot further toward most careers than a few extra classes.

"The kids willing to give up their summers for education have a different level of drive than the ones that attend the rest of the year."

Not really, if anything it takes less drive. It's vastly easier to take classes over the summer (when classes are usually easier), and then do your internships in fall or spring when there's no competition. The only reason not everyone does this is that it wouldn't be financially viable.

Since when can you not apply financial aid to summer classes? When I was in college (10 years ago), the rule was 2 semesters/year.

Summer usually wasn't viable because class selection is limited. For example, Quantum Mechanics 1 is fall semester, Quantum Mechanics 2 is spring semester, and you need both to graduate.

> You could probably say the same thing about the summer session at most universities

Not really. The summer session at most state schools is like the summer sessions in public high schools. Mostly people who failed a class or couldn't register for the one they needed

Seconded. And it's worth noting that the percentage of people in the US whose parents make >$10M a year is so small that it's unlikely that anyone knows enough of them to make statistically valid assumptions about their performance relative to kids from more median backgrounds.

You'd need to know or track 1000+ of those individuals to find statistical significant in a phenomenon that's probably a few percentage points in size. It makes the article very hard to disagree with in a concrete way (since I doubt any of us know that many trust funders) but I doubt the OP really has that level of data either.

This is just a long anecdotal gripe based on a few data points.

Not a statistician, but I don't believe this is true. You need ~1000 individuals to find statistically significant phenomena in a population the size of the U.S.. Since the population of rich people is so much smaller, you'd need a smaller number of individuals to draw statistical inferences from it.

Anyone know the actual formula for statistical significance, and able to work out how big a sample needs to be for, say, a population of 100k?

Not trying to be harsh, but you apparently haven't been taught this key idea about statistical significance: degree of confidence depends only on the size of the sample and the sample selection mechanism, not the size of the total population. This is a really unintuitive idea. The dependence is something like

  confidence = (signal/noise)*sqrt(sample size)
(One caveat: if your population is very small, you may be able to get away with a smaller sample size if you are sampling without replacement. In other words, to make statements about a group of 10 people at any desired level of confidence, you never need to sample more than 10 people. This caveat is definitely ignorable for groups like "the number of families with $10 million.)

I couldn't find a great intro link, but you might find something useful here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Statistical_hypothesis_testing

You're right (and my follow up comment is wrong) but the core of my comment holds - you still probably need 1,000+ samples to get a statistically significant result for a phenomena like this and I really doubt the OP has any knowledge on that order of things.

There's huge noise in terms of the lifetime income / career success earned by any sample population regardless of background and the phenomena we'd be looking for is probably on the order of a single-digit difference.

You'd need something like a twins study to ever really know if this was true.

Do rich kids really outperform at work because of how they behave / think? Or do their parents have better connections? Or do they just have more money to afford better colleges? The OP has no evidence that the perceived better results are actually because of the reasons he cites, or other phenomena.

If point of the post is just "rich kids have more resources so they do better at life than poor kids", well, that's kind of uninteresting and obvious. If it's "rich kids are treated different" or "rich kids act different at work" then that needs to be substantiated.

Oh, I totally agree. I was just looking to make a point about statistical significance because I'm an annoying nerd.

The funny thing about sample sizes is that they don't scale with population size. [Edited the part where I said they don't scale "much"... they don't scale.]

If you're studying a phenomena with less than 5% impact, you need 1000+ data points to reach 95% significance.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Statistical_hypothesis_testing [Fixed link, deleted my incorrect comment.]

Looks like we just replied to nostrademons at the same time, but we slightly disagree. You say that the dependence on population size is slow (sqrt) but I say there is no dependence for most cases. Are you sure you aren't confusing the dependence of confidence on sample size as opposed to population size? See, e.g.,


I could be making a mistake somewhere.

No, you're right. I edited my comment.

"The socially outgoing and confident worker will always outperform his socially awkward counterpart of equal intelligence."

I think you missed the point of the article.

Ok, how about:

"Show me statistics that say rich kids are socially outgoing and more confident than middle class kids."

That's a little better. Granted, it's difficult to quantify things like socially outgoing and confident. Also, that's still not quite what the author is arguing here.

It's not about general social skills or confidence, but about specific (and subconscious) knowledge about how to navigate certain social dynamics that are foreign to some kids and very familiar to others.

I think the scenario in this article works in some banks, law firms and other places that give a hoot about Ivy League connections and hire a few proles to avoid being painted as a company full of elitists.

So doing a startup is not about connections? LOL.

Having good connection is a necessary (but not sufficient) condition to identifying customer pain points, finding VC money, doing sales, etc.

Never said that.

The article isn't about entrepreneurs, which are an entirely different type of person that makes different kinds of mistakes. An entrepreneur isn't afraid of making mistakes, regardless of his place in the social order. That's why he's starting a company instead of working for a bank.

The example given in the article was: "two analysts at a prestigious financial firm". A "prestigious financial firm" is not a startup, and while networking is important, it isn't the same networking/hustle that a entrepreneur engages in.

I don't think it would be possible to disagree more. Connections are not at all necessarily required for startup success.

I am speaking here merely from an anecdotal and firsthand perspective, but all it takes is one data point to refute the claim that condition A is necessary for outcome B.

Agreed, there is some serious projecting going on here.

Wow does this ring true to me. I'm working at wal-mart for gas money while going to college. I had a customer call and complain and I had to go talk to management. Such a scary ordeal since I need this job. I have nothing to fall back on, with no gas money, no degree. My fate is in their hands and that is the most sickening feeling I've ever had. But this is temporary. When I'm done with college, wal-mart customers are going to get a piece of my mind since I won't be worrying about getting fired.

The guy is right, when you have everything to lose at the slightest mistake, you don't take chances.

"When I'm done with college, wal-mart customers are going to get a piece of my mind since I won't be worrying about getting fired."

Right, because having a college diploma is equivalent to guaranteed employment.

I see the similar dynamics between American citizens and immigrant workers. Immigrants, in general, are more risk-averse. They do not want to lose a work visa or to disrupt the green card process. As a result, they become yes-men and avoid challenging and unsolicited projects. Of course, it is not always the case, but I feel that in general Americans have some psychological advantage in career advancement.

It's more subtle than that. Let's say you get 100 risk points to spend. An American might say, I'll spend 75 points on setting up my own business. An immigrant would say, I've already spent 50 risk points on coming to America, I don't have 75 to spare.

Non-American can not legally start a business without a green card or getting a work visa for his startup (extremely hard to get)

Yeah - but you are saying that immigrants are risk-averse and that's simply not true - just they have allocated their risk differently than you.

I agree. I think that immigration itself is a risky undertaking. One has to abandon everything familiar, which is by no means easy, regardless the difficult circumstances. Besides, all the rich kids in the US today we are discussing and capitalists are the descendants of immigrants. I would not say that immigrants are risk-averse, but I think that obtaining a visa or green card mainly keep them from entrepreneurial ventures. Or maybe language barriers.

Actually my experience growing up in NYC (and this may be an outlier, but I see it elsewhere) is that immigrants are more likely to be entrepreneurial because traditional employment is off limits due to language, cultural, and educational barriers–and sometimes outright discrimination. That's why there are New York archetypes of Korean green grocers, Chinese dry cleaners, Greek diner owners, etc (albeit these are rapidly shifting). The large number of Jewish-owned businesses in NY speaks to the historical discrimination against Jews (and not just some stereotypical belief about business acumen). Not exactly social networking and cloud computing, but entrepreneurship nonetheless.

Is this so? I was under impression that you can easily start a business in US without residence, you just cannot work for it in US.

So could one start a company in US and do international work (teh interwebz) with possible US hires to take care of local business?

It really depends on where the immigrants come from and what their values are. I've read that Chinese immigrants out-earn their US-born counterparts. Second generation Chinese do even better. It wouldn't surprise me if this were also true of Indians, Koreans and a slew of other nationalities, too.

TL;DR - Self-confidence makes a difference to success in life. People who come from privileged backgrounds naturally exude confidence.

tl;dr: people with FU Money perform better in their jobs

I suppose on the other hand you have to consider that rich kids have less motivation to succeed than middle/lower class people, if they already have all the material things they can realistically desire

(the article also didn't site any studies to back up its statistics or claims, so you have to take it at face value)

I'm not rich, neither can I cite evidence to back this up, but looking around in my circle of friends, I don't agree with you.

Rich(er) kids have just as much drive to work on interesting products, find new solutions to problems, etc. And they have the added benefit of not having to worry about making a baseline salary on the side, they can ask their parents to bootstrap them, to find first clients, etc. Sure you can say that there are some who are slacking off on their parents money, but then again there are also middle class/poor kids who don't do anything useful in life.

Allow me to rephrase then: to the extent that lack of comfort/possessions motivates people to strive for better, rich kids will experience less motivation from that source. Of course they can always find motivation from other sources. I suppose you could also argue that everyone is motivated to maintain their current standards of living, rather than (or more than) elevate to something higher. So rich kids will find it unacceptable to settle for a middling income.

I'll always hire a middle class guy with something to prove over an ivy leaguer. The fire in the belly is what resonates with me the most. They work harder and don't take success for granted.

"rich kids don’t fear the boss."

So true. And if you start acting like a boss, you'll start being treated like one. Of course, this is a tricky business (as Michael mentions), and a lot depends on your role and the company's culture. But with the right approach, a mix of social skills and "knowing your stuff", it's possible. Especially in the field of technology.

Yes, being rich can make you confident which can do well for your career. But there are plenty of other unfair advantages that also bring confidence, like height or good looks. And then there are really horribly unfair things like intelligence.

I'm tall and am/was arguably somewhat good looking. I don't get many, if any, advantages from this because I grew up as and am a pretty serious geek. Now that I'm older I have better social skills, but because of how I turned out I never got the benefits of this. Without the proper attitude even looks aren't helpful. It took me a long time to learn proper social skills and I feel ten years behind my peers. This is typical in technology. I wont even go into how tech is this ghetto that rich kids never bother with anyway, they are just on the fast track to management.

On the other hand money is concrete and real. If I had 5 million in the bank my attitude would be 100% different. I wouldn't be considered geeky, I'd be geek-chic and eccentric. I wouldn't have most of the anxities I have now because I know money can buy me almost everything I need.

Sorry, but large sums of money are nowhere comparable to less tangible gifts like height or looks. One buys me a home the other maybe gets me an occasional second glance.

I'll also toss in that thinking of yourself as a social peer with your bosses is a huge benefit. The book "Outliers" explores this. Well-off kids are raised to be assertive and have a sense of entitlement. They just do better in life. They can defend these attitudes by saying "I come from a well off family, just as wealthy as you. I went to the same school as you and your kids and my parents know the same people. I was taught to get my way and that my parents will protect me with their riches."

Lately, coincidentally, I have a lot in common with my current bosses. The social parts take care of themselves and its a huge benefit without me putting in a lot of effort. I don't feel the divide between them and me as much as at my previous jobs. I have a small amount of savings that can help me get by if I get fired or laid off. If this is how rich kids feel at age 23 when entering the workforce then they have a HUGE advantage.

Seconded. The claim that height is some sort of social, sexual, or financial advantage is absurd.

Are you saying that height doesn't matter, or just that being tall doesn't give you an advantage over being average? I've always heard it does, but that's just anecdotal. Short people are definitely at a disadvantage though. Height matters.

Women prefer men who are taller than them. I rarely if ever see a woman with a man shorter than her.

This is likely due to the fact that American men average a few inches taller than American women. Biology and statistical sampling plus a little bit of confirmation bias.

Well, it could be fair if we practiced natural selection based on intelligence vs. good looks.

This seems totally fictional. If the deck was really so stacked, why would a super rich kid be working as an entry level analyst with the plebes in the first place?

The rich kid is also motivated to pay his dues. If he's installed directly into management then people will bypass him because he'll be considered a no nothing in middle management. If he works his way up, gaining experience all the while then it's a victory for him.

The big difference he, or she, knows exactly how long he has to stay in the at entry-level analyst position. While most people are promoted when someone in management feels it's the right time, the rich kid knows when to ask; not when a position opens up, not when they are asked, not when they feel they've learned enough, but when they are ready to make the leap.

One of these rich kids is a friend of mine. He's been hired and fired from more jobs than I care to remember. While my biggest concern is making the mortgage each month his is making enough to put in his daughters trust fund. Rent, food, and even vacation are expenses he's not worried about.

He paid his dues by doing his stint in different banks and now he's a family financial planner. He built his Rolodex up by being a performer; something that is impossible to do any other way.

I know so many rich kids who say, "I didn't tell anyone at that job I was rich, and I worked my way up from the bottom. I wanted to prove that I'm badass and don't need my money to give me advantages!"

It's pretty much a cliche among rich people these days. By starting at the bottom they gain pride, confidence, and bragging rights. I remember this one rich girl whose dad was close friends with the CEO and who got a very highly coveted and prestigious position in the company.

She would repeat over and over again (I probably heard it 20 times) how when she applied for the job she hid her identity, because she wanted to earn the job on merit.

Naturally, her extraordinary sense of entitlement and being protected gave her tremendous psychological advantage over competitors and she beat them out.

It's just not cool anymore to be given something, it's much cooler to prove you're better than the poor kids by playing their own game far better than they can do.

Of course what these people choose to ignore is that the poor kids are living paycheck to paycheck, can barely afford to buy new shoes, have to clip coupons, are constantly looking at homeless people and realizing that could be them tomorrow, etc.

The rich kids are just oblivious to the fact that rent, food, clothing cost anything at all. They are oblivious to the fact that getting fired in a bad economy can lead to homelessness.

Because then they've been seen to be humble enough to have worked their way up from the bottom... so they can all feel like they've fairly got to the top of the company, and earned it too.

The implication of this article is that the odds were stacked in their favour not necessarily just through explicit intentions of the higher ups, but through the difference in their inherent attitude.

Well, that sucks. I thought the whole point of being born rich was that you get to do cool stuff like drink blood out of Abraham Lincoln's skull with Dick Cheney and the Winklevoss twins, and leapfrog the corporate ladder. Spending your 20s making Powerpoint presentations with the less fortunate would be a total bummer.

You only really need to take credit for the work, I took from the article that you don't actually need to be very good.

I for one am blending a bit of both. From a lower-middle class background and being content to be less than average at my job. For some reason it isn't working out as well as I hoped :P

Wow did that last paragraph ruin the article.

Using an anecdote as data is bad enough. Using a madeup anecdote is even worse.

{citation needed}

I never realized how poor I was until I started seeing articles like this. Growing up in rural Ohio, my dad made something like $15-20K to support a family of 5. It's a completely different world for someone who has a $40K+ student loan and a substantial amount of credit card debt hanging over him the day he's done with college.

I think it's unfortunate that they mention rich, yet don't mention the advantage of coming from an entrepreneurial family. Whether rich or not, if your parent is self-employed or an entrepreneur it will have a huge impact on how you take on corporate jobs versus someone who's parents didn't start their own company.

I'm not sure how much that matters. It is something new in the last century that most people assuming "working" means working for some company, no?

From my experience it matters a lot. When you grow up in an entrepreneurial environment you see ups and downs and realize and are less concerned with job security, bureaucracy, and more prone to innovate, or at least for opportunities to spin something off yourself. This article was written was the last century in mind, so I am not sure what you are getting at.

What I mean is, everyone used to be entrepreneurs and most switched right over to the mentality that you have to "get a job". Why would modern entrepreneur children have a different view?

"I believe my generation will overthrow the arbitrary and brutal authority of corporate capitalism and bigoted conservatism in favor of rationalistic, libertarian socialism driven by a scientific approach and a concern for universal social justice."

so, did you just take poli-sci to learn buzzwords and impress dumb chicks? I'm guessing you failed to comprehend any of the material. Before you call a fortune 500 company a "brutal authority" you might want to READ A FUCKING BOOK.

Naz, I agree with you that he's taking a position that's pretty uninformed based on history and I'm a big admirer of your comments and thinking, but I even thought "read a fucking book" wasn't the best way to present a counterargument.

People here are smart, if you show them cohesive analysis and can avoid emotionally loaded words, they respond to it. The Western commerce structures have produced more wealth than anything else in history... almost everything you interact with on a daily basis is a result of coordinated effort of these structures.

People don't even realize because they're surrounded in wealth - they don't viscerally understand how it got there, and how it wouldn't be there if it wasn't for the structures we've got.

For instance, in Soviet Russia the soda vending machines wouldn't give you a can or bottle (what a waste!), so instead there was a communal cup that filled with soda, you drank from the cup that everyone else did, and then there was a bucket of stale water you dipped the cup in afterwards to clean it for the next person.

Needless to say, this promoted all sorts of germs and unsanitary nastiness and lots of educated people forbade their kids from drinking the soda from the communal cup, whereas less educated people passed their germs around and got more sick, and had lower health and lower life expectancy.

But people don't read history, so they don't know about stuff like that. They just assume that soda companies are... what's the author call it, brutal authoritarian something? You're right, people don't study history. So we've got to be patient and work with them and educate them a little bit as to how things really are.

It's kind of a thankless job, but I think civility is the only way to do it.

The author presumably went to college and in addition lives in the era of the internet. He thus has access to the most powerful educational sources in the history of human civilization. Many people simply will not be educated. Especially if they are rewarded for ignorance. There comes a certain threshold of incoherence where a person should be simply ignored. They are being disrespectful of their listeners. Of course then I see them upvoted on hacker news, where the average IQ is probably a standard deviation above the norm. In situations like this ridicule is the correct response if it alerts people who might not know any better from paying attention. I am over correcting for the lack of ridicule of stupid ideas that is the norm.

Fox News should be insulted and ridiculed, and so should similarly formatted ignorance from the left. There is no reason why simple fact checking and logical coherence shouldn't be the cultural standard in the age of wikipedia at our fingertips.

Strange things happen if people go overboard about an heretic statement that was never made. Calling "corporate capitalism and bigoted conservatism" a "brutal authority" doesn't mean that he is placing it in the same league with Cambodian communism. That's just your unfounded assumption.

In terms of material wealth Western commerce structures have produced more. However, much suffering has occurred a result. High levels of pollution, propping up of corrupt regimes in exchange for access to resources for cheap cost, environmental damage done to poor countries, etc.

The costs of this material wealth have not been measured fully. Typically fields like economics only look at financial matters to determine that we are better off. The 'we' part changes depending on context. Are people in the Nigerian deltas better off? Every two years or so they experience a Gulf of Mexico BP level oil spill. Acidity levels in the ocean are increasing and then there is global warming.

In some countries life is good (generally speaking) but this good life does come, at least partially, at the expense of others. From my perspective there is a serious problem with capitalism and Western commerce structures. The problems seem to be getting worse.

> In terms of material wealth Western commerce structures have produced more. High levels of pollution, propping up of corrupt regimes in exchange for access to resources for cheap cost, environmental damage done to poor countries, etc.

It is inarguable that all these things have occurred. The point I hope to politely contest is that this is a function of Western commerce structures to a greater degree than other commerce structures.

The reason is that the Soviet Union had ecological catastrophe on a scale far beyond anything observed in the West:


Basically, for every Three Mile Island class event in the West, you had a Chernobyl (or more than one) under the communist regimes.

Put another way -- there's no question that large corporations will pollute if they can get away with it, which is why some form of externality regulation is necessary. But large governments will also pollute if they can get away with it, and in the absence of independent power structures formed by individuals (= capitalism/markets), there is only politics -- and governments outside the West have tended to be less answerable to their people.

Thus, a non-Western commerce structure which produced less material wealth (namely communism) also produced "high levels of pollution" and "environmental damage in poor countries". Communists also certainly propped up corrupt regimes in return for access to resources at cheap cost (e.g. the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan was in part driven by their desire to get to the Gulf).

I'm not trying to split hairs here by any means, just saying that the "overthrow of capitalism" which the original post advocates will not solve the very real problems you identify, and the historical record indicates that it may in fact exacerbate them. Now, there might be a third solution[1] which is not communism or capitalism that does not result in the problems you describe, but (IMO) it's unlikely to simply be an intermediate between the two.


[1] I found the following article by Steven Johnson interesting, on how open source doesn't fit into the market-oriented frame of capitalism nor the command-and-control frame of socialism/communism:


I think the paradox he observes is that people are motivated by socioeconomic status, and that open source contributors are more interested in the "socio" (= props from other programmers) than the "economic" part of that equation. Given that the "economic" part dominated thought in the 20th century, even to the extent that people actually used it as a proxy for (rather than correlate of!) social class, it might be profitable to think more in terms of the "socio" end[2] of things should one want to start improving society.

[2] I hesitate to use the term "game mechanics" in such a discussion, but this kind of thing makes recycling fun, and takes it out of the market frame:


There was a far greater ecological disaster in the former Soviet Union than in the United States. I don't think the comparison is fair since Soviet chemical and gas companies didn't do quite the level of investment in third world countries as American companies did. I think one needs to factor in things like Bhopal, Nigeria delta, etc. when comparing to the Soviet Union. We just shifted the dirty work, literally, to other countries.

The problem as I see it comes from trading with countries without high levels of worker safety standards and environmental standards. Also from not accounting for negative externalities. A tax on carbon would be useful. Things like that.

A man said many years ago that the love of money was the source of all evil and this, I think, is the crux with the problem of capitalism. Money is not a great motivator. Newton did not invent calculus to make billions. Leonardo would not have painted better if he had been paid more. I don't the answers to the problem but I do believe there is a huge problem with capitalism and, more specifically, corporatism.

Adam Smith opposed corporations because the externalities weren't accounted for (to use modern parlance). I agree with him on this. There are lots of examples of corporations acting in a brutally authoritarian way and the comment by nazgulnarsil seems to imply that by reading history one comes away with a view opposite to:

" fortune 500 company a "brutal authority" "

Again, I don't know the solution but there is a problem and plenty of examples of Fortune 500 companies acting with brutal authority.

EDIT: I'm not implying in any way that the Soviet Union was a model or that it ought to be emulated. I don't suggest communism as practiced by the Warsaw Pact nations was better than capitalism.

This is a good question. I believe a libertarian society would function well; but what about the boundarys between societies -- Could somebody live in libertopia, but operating plantations in slavtopia where the labour is cheap and fear keeps environmentalists away. (note: I think there is something to prevent it --- I just don't see what it is yet).

However, your other points: nobody is motivated by money. They want the 'wealth' it is convertable too. And wealth is all valuable things: medicine, automobiles, green energy, free range chicken, homes, etc.

'Wealth of Nations' Adam Smith? I don't recall him being that specific. The wealth of nations was largely an accounting of the wealth of Britain and his inquiry into the cause of it (capital, specialized labour, deregulation).


Actually I think I have a solution. If libertopia was better -- no skilled labour would move (or stay) in slavtopia. The few viable industries (diamond mining, oil & gas, lumber, etc) would expire as Libertopia naturally developed alternatives (like it already has: synthetics, electric cars, composite woods).

The transition period is messy though.

"I'm not implying in any way that the Soviet Union was a model or that it ought to be emulated. I don't suggest communism as practiced by the Warsaw Pact nations was better than capitalism."

I would take it a step further and say that it was inferior in almost every way. There are individuals and organizations that behave with "brutal authority" in every society, but when it is the government and they have absolute (unchecked) power, then it is far worse.

Even though the comment could be more civil and less aggressive, it does point out the phrase from the article that struck me most.

Jumping from people with less economical stability who don't advance because they "spend the bulk of their time trying not to offend" and "don't offer suggestions when in meetings" to brutal authority of bigoted conservatism is a stretch.

In my book, people who act natural, take initiative and get things done deserve to advance. People who are withdrawn and only interested in keeping their jobs don't. And on the other hand smack-average performers don't get noticed and advanced, while silent and shy types, if they're doing a stellar job, do.

Maybe it's specific to the technology field, but I never noticed that one's financial wealth, or lack of it, influenced their carrer path.

edit: typos

> Maybe it's specific to the technology field [...]

Yes, the author wrote, "I would advise those who are sufficiently talented to work in technology, which tends to be more meritocratic than other industries, and to avoid old-style business. Beyond that, I know of no solution."

Though I think techies from wealthier families still have an advantage in terms of salary bargaining, and choosing what teams they work with. (Being able to walk away is a serious advantage. Simply wait for great deals to come along, then push in with whatever strength you have... bailing if you realize it's not a good deal after all.) Not to mention more leisure time learning tech from various angles, and safety nets.

People from wealthier families also have an advantage in fields that use unpaid internships when starting.

I'm legitimately curious, which fucking books do you think the author of the blog should read?

For what it's worth, I initially dismissed your comment as a troll, but was motivated enough by your replies to click through to your profile and read some of your own blog, and was surprised to find that you are actually an intelligent and interesting person.

See how just one carelessly worded rant can tarnish a first impression? Give the blogger the benefit of the doubt -- he sounds young, but not stupid.

>I'm guessing you failed to comprehend any of the material... READ A FUCKING BOOK.

If you're so much cleverer than this chap, why have you not felt it necessary to accompany your ad-hominem attacks with at least a basic level of elucidation?

To the chap in question: insightful views clearly stated. I applaud your goals and I hope we can make it happen.

Insults do not ad hominem make. Not to say that it was a good comment to begin with.

The whole post basically said the author was stupid while neglecting to explicitly point out anything wrong with what he/she said. That's pretty much the definition of ad hominem, no?

Not at all. http://plover.net/~bonds/adhominem.html

As I said, insults are not ad hominem in and of themselves.

if insults don't make an argument ad hominem, what does?

"He's an asshole, but he makes a good point."

Not ad hominem, not trying to refute the argument, but still an insult.

"He's an asshole, and his argument is crap."

Not ad hominem, refuting the argument by mere assertion, and an insult.

"He's an asshole, so his argument can't be taken seriously."

Ad hominem - implying that some characteristic of the person makes his argument flawed; and an insult.

"He just wants what's best for his daughter, so his argument can't be taken seriously."

Ad hominem (implying bias); but not an insult.

He did not claim the author was an idiot and dismiss his writing because of it. That would be ad hominem. He read and ingested the article and then (rightfully) drew the conclusion that the author is an idiot.

Even if one accepts his conclusion as correct, he did not explain how he came to that conclusion very well.

While I can, in fact, guess why he concluded that, I am merely guessing because his reasoning was not explained very well.

I really hope that I'm wrong in believing that about half of his problems are with the use of political labels. The very meaning of all political labels is contested: people abuse them constantly for their own purposes, so they do not carry the same meaning for all people. For example, "socialism" can be anything from an oppressive government that ruthlessly punishes success to neighbors banding together to help each other out in times of trouble. Or it can be used as a simple insult.

The problem isn't that these words have no meaning, the problem is that people are fighting over what these words should mean. As Lewis Carroll put it, 'The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'which is to be master -- that's all.'

Yes yes, we know how wonderful capitalism is at producing gadgets and it gives us a great show, but how much is it helping people really? Does union busting and making people work for the bare minimum they need to live make you feel as warm and fuzzy inside inside?

Nice personal attack right there. Try addressing his argument next time. And FYI, sociologically speaking, most corporations are brutal psychopats.

Absolutely agree with you that he should address his argument.

That said, this is almost too obvious to point out, but it happens to be true that the Soviet Union and Communist China (and Vietnam, Cambodia, etcetera) murdered 100 million+[1] in the name of "building socialism", and it is quite possible that the original poster knows people from those countries who lost loved ones to socialism/communism.

Seen in this light, I'm not saying that OP's phrasing was the way to go, but it's understandable that there are people frustrated by this all too common style of ignorance. It's not idealistic to actually support socialism in 2011, it's simply ignorant.

At the risk of reductio ad Hitlerum, certainly an offhand comment in favor of "rational, libertarian Nazism" would have dominated response to the essay, yet we find it acceptable for educated people to make offhand[2] complimentary references to a polar opposite ideology that actually killed many more people.

[1] http://www.amazon.com/Black-Book-Communism-Crimes-Repression...

[2] Or in this case, direct rather than offhand

Perhaps you are not familiar with the terminology... In most of the world, "libertarian" means libertarian socialism. The historically correct meaning. Some right-wingers in 1950's US appropriated the term to mean extreme capitalism. Discussed earlier:


The usual claims against communism don't apply, as libertarian socialists historically opposed both communism and capitalism. (In the senses you mean.)

The link you provided does not talk about the word 'libertarian' at all, other than its author calling himself a Libertarian Socialist.

I'm sorry, you're correct, I should have linked to the HN discussion, where steveklabnik does a good job explaining. I was very distracted and rushed when posting.


You're making the same mistake that he was by assuming that he was advocating actual socialism/communism instead of a "social democracy"-esque hybrid.

It's absolutely true that socialism is an overloaded term that can refer to anything from the European-style welfare state (hardly a hellhole) to far less pleasant dictatorships like Cuba to out-and-out mass murder like in Cambodia, China, and the USSR.

However, the post said "I believe my generation will overthrow the arbitrary and brutal authority of corporate capitalism and bigoted conservatism in favor of rationalistic, libertarian socialism driven by a scientific approach and a concern for universal social justice".

That sounds more like Pol Pot and Lenin than your standard EU bureaucrat. The latter usually pays at least lip service to capitalism and markets even if they often have a conflicted relationship with them.

Also, the thing is that we tend to take people at face value in most other areas. If someone calls for takeover by Hamas or Islamic Jihad or the KKK or the American Nazi Party or what have you, we usually do not go into detail to try to figure out exactly what splinter faction they belong to, or whether they represent "true Islamism" or "true Nazism", because we know that ideologies coming from that direction are a dead end and have killed millions of people.

Similarly, if someone calls for the overthrow of capitalism, it's incumbent upon them to explain that they don't really mean "overthrow" for real, but something more like Sweden [complete with multinational corporations like Ikea].

Postscript: For what it's worth, 90% of Indians and 93% of Chinese believe that trade and business ties are good for the country. These are still large, poor countries -- yet they are actually considerably more favorably inclined towards capitalism than wealthy countries like the US (now at only 66% favorable!)



Probably has something to do with the huge trade deficit of the US, if the US was a large net exporter that created many jobs, people's opinions should be different.

Islamism has killed millions of people? You might want to rethink that.

Certainly not as many as Communism or Nazism, but in the various manifestations of political Islam (aka Islamism), I think it's fair to say its adherents have killed millions.


In toting up that grim number I'd include the following, in which political Islam of one stripe or another was certainly a motivating force:

1. The Bangladesh Massacre, targeted disproportionately at Hindus. More than 3 million dead.

2. The Iran/Iraq War. Iraq started it but Saddam's avowed intention, to the extent it can be trusted, was to stop Khomeini from fomenting Islamic revolution in Iraq. Massive atrocities on both sides, 1.3 million dead.

3. The Algerian Civil War. 150-200 thousand dead.

4. The Janjaweed perpetrators of the Sudanese Genocide. At least 330 thousand dead.

The killers/combatants here were influenced by numerous factors, but even if you assign only fractional "credit", I think it is indeed accurate to ascribe millions of deaths to political Islam. Moreover (and this is I think the point you were driving at), I think it's fair to say that Al-Qaeda has genocidal intent even if not capabilities.

All of those damned governments were Stalinist. That means they believed in a dictatorship of the proliteriat and screw everyone else who doesn't believe in "communism".

Stalinism is just one branch of communism and it is such an obvious failure that generalizing it and making it the one and only true communism just shows your ignorance about what socialism is and isn't.

So one branch of communism, one that favours a dictatorship and favours state-owned property instead of public-property (which anarchism and other branches of communism favour), has killed millions.

It is idealistic to support socialism, it's ignorant to support Stalinism or Maoism or whatever dictatorship-favouring branch of communism you want to refer to. Generalizing that garbage is worse than ignorant.

He didn't make a cohesive argument to respond to. libertarian socialism? I don't argue with fools, but I will point him out to others in the hope that they'll save some time.

those brutal psychopaths happen to be the most effective form of peacefully organizing humans to provide stuff others want in voluntary trade ever created. There's a reason we see thousands of years of conquest, then the innovation that allows large safe investment in wealth generating ventures and a subsequent explosion in global standards of living and the decline of conquest. you might want to try reading a book as well.

But who am I kidding? the historical illiteracy of the post cold war era is all but absolute at this point. Rah Rah democracy.

Psychopaths aren't a problem until they start killing people. Yes they have a certain psychological profile but if you take away the serial killer part, nobody cares.

It's not where you are. It's where you're going.

I liked this article, but my experiences have been different. From what I've seen, it seems like broad career choice is also incredibly significant; and that's something rich kids often get wrong (from the perspective of an entrepreneur). They want to have happy lives in prestigious jobs, and there lies the problem. They want stability instead of the ability to change something.

Now I'm studying abroad, and have met up with a bunch of rich kids. They all want to party. Sure, if I get a job with them it's possible they'll do better than me. So I won't get a job with them.

Let's look at the top entrepreneurs right now. Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg. All of them were well-to-do but weren't rich. But that didn't matter for them at the time. Because their ambition was far more powerful than their income.


Gates already had a million dollar trust fund.

Fair enough, but that's 1/3.

Of course, none of the three were exactly poor, and all grew up with programming backgrounds. We'll see who takes charge these next 20 years.

Zuck went to Philips Exeter. Boarding in 2011, that's $40,000 a year his dad shelled out for high school; non-boarding, still $31,000. OK, it wasn't today's dollars, but aying he wasn't "exactly poor" is an understatement.

Going to school somewhere like that is one of the experiences that develops precisely the attitude the blogger is talking about.

If you are so "controlled" by your generalized/stereotyped upbringing you don't deserve to lead/manage.

Arguably many of the people who lead/manage now don't deserve to.

Another explication might be that rich kid not needing a job, do the right thing instead of the boss thing as they work lending them more opportunity.

'Linchpin' by Seth Godin defends this thesis that the job market has changed and that opportunities are given to (or taken by) the one that don't follow the rules.

The beginning of the article is nice, but the end nearly fall in fatalism. Saying that a sociological and behavioral issue is unsurmountable if you're not in the right dispositions first is just incredibly wrong. The world is changed by people doing things everyday even if the stars are never aligned; waiting a scientific approach to the world is very, very useless and a bit frightening too.

You're right it's hopeless and unfair. We are all losers that should stop trying immediately. We should spend our time wishing for impossible utopian communism that will somehow arbitrarily add fairness. Then we can complain that we aren't as tall as other people, or as strong.

Or we could act like winners. Turn the tables and determine where life is unfair in your favor and play that game, or at least push the game closer to that direction. Rich kids are pushed into certain roles/behaviors as well. There are risks that they fear that you do not.

ok... I think the problems lies in trying to control something out of our locus of control. We can't control the rich having an advantage, so much thoughts shouldn't be given to such matters[as related to personal advancement, not social]. What's within our control[concern] we have the quality of our work, how much we take initiate, building a social network etc.

I find the author built a prison for himself by attacking the problem through an avenue he has no control over.

Yes, rich kids already take the whole world. I know this far before because I'm a Chinese lives in China Mainland. I'm not sure what's the real career game in western country, but I know the Chinese one. Rich kids inherit everything from their parents the most important thing is social relations which is very important in China.Other kids work for them. That's it.

Do you have any evidence or case studies to back up your claim? That rich kids earn more than middle class kids on average?

Rich family drives 5-year old to doctor's visit. Mom: "Remember honey, you can ask the doctor anything you want, and if he does something you don't like just tell him no."

Poor family drives 5-year old to doctor's visit. Mom: "Remember honey, be respectful and do as the doctor says. And be quiet or there will be trouble."

From an actual study.

Wouldn't it be better to attempt to cast these ideas in an evolutionary biological framework rather than in a typical static classical rich-poor, capitalist-marxist, liberal-conservative values framework that we use in voting? Might something more closely approximating the truth be revealed by doing so?

This specifically has to do with fear, social fear, and how it plays out in the workplace and in one's relationships.

You cannot change your social background, but you can choose to recognize and transcend fear. You can treat everybody respectfully as a social equal regardless of your background.

Meditation helps.

I recommend Lubrano's book: Limbo: Blue-Collar Roots, White-Collar Dreams http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-047126376...

The idea that rich kids are more liberated is wrong headed. It's'simply myopic. There's'not even an attempt to explore the inherent advantages of the "other."

Insight a rich kid can never have being merely one of dozens that shot into my fatigued head.

I am fearless because I was poor and it ain't so bad. Being born middle-class must suck.

You have a point. In finance especially, I think being middle class is about the worst position to be in. If you're poor, you get into finance because you're fearless and hungry and worked your ass off. You work on the trading floor and get along fine.

If you're rich, it's like the OP said -- you get into finance because you have casual confidence and connections. You probably already know your boss or some of his colleagues socially, or your dad belongs to the same yacht club. And your boss likes you because you're just like him.

If you're middle class, though, you aren't hungry because you were actually pretty comfortable growing up, and you don't have the connections because your dad is an accountant at a mid-sized manufacturing company and doesn't have a yacht. So you're screwed.

Wow. I'm thrilled that this essay has received so much attention. I went from 50 pageviews per day, on average, to 20,000 in one day. I'm very busy with work and I don't have time for a point-by-point reply to everyone, even though there are a lot of great comments here and many deserve replies. I just don't think I will get to it in a timely fashion.

To address some of those critiques, last night I wrote a follow up to this essay here: http://michaelochurch.wordpress.com/2011/03/08/follow-up-on-... .

Holly Crap. People that go around here don't question capitalism. They dream to sell their souls to the highest bidder. And than when water and food are so crappy (because of the corporate masters) they will give all money to health corporations. Oh my....

You're surprised that people on an entrepreneurship website are capitalists?

No i am surprised that people with intelligence and vision for technology, don't think outside the box when is needed. For me there is no panacea for society. Part of my life was in Socialism, another in Democracy / Corporatocracy and believe when i say that in two cases for normal hardworking and talented individual there is no hope. The solution is to take what's good from both of them, for example public healthcare (from communism) and free market (from capitalism). And make politicians responsible for every penny that they are willing to take against public interest. But what i know...

The public interest may not be in the public's interest. Inequality may not always be a bad thing. The focus shouldn't be on the gap between the haves and have nots, the focus should be on the dire situation of the poor without worrying about the lives of those better off.

What bothers me is that the only solution to bridge the "income inequality" is to take money from the rich and just give it to the poor.

Beyond the mentally and physically unable (which is a very low percentage), poverty is a result of poor life choices. This is what freedom gives us: the ability to succeed or fall flat on our ass due to our own choices, which is why we will always have poverty in our current system.

> Beyond the mentally and physically unable (which is a very low percentage), poverty is a result of poor life choices.

Oh, how I want to see you tell that to a 15 year old born in a ghetto.

"Oh, how I want to see you tell that to a 15 year old born in a ghetto."

The truth hurts sometime. If we continue to ignore it, nothing will ever change.

No, I actually literally want to see you say that, in real life, face to face, to a 15 year old human. Bonus points if it's a girl.

That probably falls into the parental life choice category

"poverty is a result of poor life choices"

You should check out a third world country. I live in one and I can tell you for a fact that this is not true.

If you wake up thinking what you're going to eat today and where you'll sleep tonight, then there aren't many choices to be made.

I see 8 y/o kids begging for money on the streets every day. They will never be able to make a choice.

"You should check out a third world country."

I should have said: poverty in the US. Poverty in third world countries is a result of the poor choices of the government.

"...poverty is a result of poor life choices."

This is an overgeneralization. All of us make choices based on our perception of the world. It matters very much whether, like me, you were raised by educated people, being told "you can do anything," being read to and told to practice music and sent to church and given responsible role models and generally expected to achieve, or whether you had a single mom who was always drunk, didn't care if you skipped school or stayed out all night, and basically expected you to end up in jail like your father, whom you never knew.

It also matters whether you grow up in a place where you're told a person can bootstrap their way to wealth or one where you have to pay bribes at every turn.

All of us make bad choices. I don't exercise, even though I know I should. The guy down the street doesn't stop drinking before work, even though he knows he should. Both of us are slightly underperforming our expectations. But where did we get those expectations?

We are responsible for what we do, but it's wrong to pretend that everyone starts on even footing.

"This is an overgeneralization. All of us make choices based on our perception of the world. It matters very much whether, like me, you were raised by educated people, being told "you can do anything," being read to and told to practice music and sent to church and given responsible role models and generally expected to achieve, or whether you had a single mom who was always drunk, didn't care if you skipped school or stayed out all night, and basically expected you to end up in jail like your father, whom you never knew."

Then the parents made poor life choices and passed these bad habits onto their kids. No matter how good our schools are, if someone's home life is like you describe, with a father in prison or an uncaring mother, it's going to be that much more difficult to succeed in life. How do you prevent this? Even with all the money and education in the world, people will still make bad decisions.

"All of us make bad choices. I don't exercise, even though I know I should. The guy down the street doesn't stop drinking before work, even though he knows he should. Both of us are slightly underperforming our expectations. But where did we get those expectations?"

Being overweight means you are unhealthy and you also probably don't feel that great during the day (I'm a programmer, I've been there). Drinking before work means you will be impaired during your job (and possibly the drive over) and you could also get fired. Your expectations in these situations should come from the adverse effects of continuing this behavior.

"We are responsible for what we do, but it's wrong to pretend that everyone starts on even footing."

will always be poverty, unless we live in a completely controlled society that dictates all of our daily decisions.

We don't all start on the same footing, but we all have a chance to move up from our current one.

I think we mostly agree here. Each person does make his/her own choices, and most people can improve their life situation if they decide to. And I definitely agree that simple income distribution isn't the answer - better to "teach a man to fish."

I was just picturing walking up to a drunk on the street and saying "the difference between me and you is that you made poor life choices and I made good ones." That would be overlooking so many factors in what made us who we are, right back to the vocabulary we heard around us from the day we were born.

The only solution is to check back in history how Fortunes are made. It's not with "good for the people" mantra. Do you think that someone who have way to get wealthy at the expense of others will think twice? Do you think that Gadaffi children after few years will not create some STARTUP hedge fund? In my country the old privileged communistic superclass now runs my "Democratic" country with tones of stollen capital, with clean face and i assure you their kids have it all. From Bentleys to AstonMartins, from nonfunctional/real businesses to hidden high payed government jobs. It's all the same. All the time. The Game is old, the players are new.

Maybe he is surprised that young, smart, poor ppl are capitalists.

Well, that still doesn't make sense. Poor people can be capitalists. Capitalism is actually a legitimate philosophy, not just an excuse rich people use for exploiting the proles.

>>Poor people can be capitalists.

Black ppl can be racist, and many are.

Capitalism without democratic control, combined with modern technology to silence any opposition (like the one employed by US in Iraq) can mean that smart, poor ppl cannot compete with not so smart, rich ppl.

That this comment has a positive upvote count is depressing.

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