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The Big Debate at FreedomFest: Is Success Due to Luck or Skill?

This past week I moderated a panel “Is Success Due to Luck or Skill” at the annual gathering of Libertarians at Freedom Fest.

The panel was inspired by professor Robert Frank of Cornell University and his book “Success and Luck: Good Fortune and the Myth of Meritocracy,” which I had picked up last summer while wandering through a bookstore at George Soros’ Central European University in Budapest, Hungary.

Although Frank initially agreed to be part of the panel, he pulled out and was replaced by Skeptic magazine editor Michael Shermer.

The Role of Lady Luck in Our Lives

Frank points out that your view of luck is linked closely to your political beliefs.

If you are Republican (or Libertarian), you probably don’t believe in luck. You attribute your success to your talent and hard work.

If you are a Democrat, you believe in luck and that your success and that of others is more due to good fortune than you think.

The Democrats’ belief in luck was reflected best in President Obama’s famous comment in the 2012 election campaign: “You didn’t build that!”

A poll of our predominantly Libertarian audience at FreedomFest confirmed this deep division. Before the debate, only three out of roughly 150 attendees at the panel discussion I moderated believed that luck played a role in their success.

Click here to read the rest of the article, “Is Success Due to Luck or Skill?


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