Friday, May 21, 2010

No Reward Without Risk.

It's Friday and I should be thinking and writing about things more fluffy than I think I am today.  A number of things happening in the world in general give me a constant sense of irritation (See Calculating the Irritation Threshold).  One virtual exchange this morning clicked over the magical Volume Under The Curve and got me going.

On my Short List of Things I Believe is an item that talks about Risk and Reward.  The sentiment is that the Human Life is not meant to have Reward without facing Risk.  It's in our nature.  Of course, it's also in our nature to be comfort-seeking and to maximize any advantage that has been given us.  So, again, there's a balance that must be struck.

I am personally, morally, ethically, philosophically dismayed at how over my lifetime Risk has been removed from the Reward equation.  As with most things, I blame the Boomers.  The Me Generation has grown up into positions of power carrying with them the ideals and beliefs they developed as adolescents and young adults.  Here in the 21st Century, we're still fighting with each other about what happened in the '60s.  The "If it feels good, do it" that was prevalent in the '60s and into the '70s has morphed into a culture of entitlement.  I deserve this Reward for no reason other than I can take it. 

The system is rigged.  Winners continue to win because they can eliminate Risk from their environment.  They're (collectively) smarter than the individual, have access to resources to prevent the individual from getting in to the game, and in general don't care about much except themselves, and their immediate environment. 

It's easy to proclaim the virtues of a free market economy when you're sitting on a pile of cash. 

Like my previous post, hold your fire before you start yelling various -isms at me.  I'm equally disgusted with those who are struggling economically and yet demand that they get some sort of Reward as well.  It's easier to see the disparity of Risk and Reward when the Risk is that the next night's bed may be a cardboard box in some hidden corner of the city.  Nevertheless, even on this scale, Reward without Risk is unacceptable.

Soak the Rich is not an acceptable solution either, is what I'm trying to say.

Aggregation of wealth and opportunity to those who took little or no risk to get it is morally bankrupt and should be socially unacceptable.  A family as every right to pass on wealth, luxury, and opportunity to its children if they've accrued it.  Successfully navigating Risk for that much Reward should be, well, rewarded. 

My point is that the children, then, must take on Risk of their own.  It's not enough to play at life with someone else's money, even if that someone else is your own family.  Work for it.  Take Risks.  Put that wealth and opportunity to good use.  The nasty idea of redistribution continues to have presence in society as an overreaction to the hoarding of wealth and opportunity.

I cannot see how any of the political and social thinkers I encounter today take that into account.  The cheap and easy answer seems to be that one should get out of the way and let the market happen.  Evidence shows, though, that the market will work to protect itself in extreme ways.  The market has no motivation for openness and full disclosure.  A free market in that sense would tie itself up in knots with various schemes, deals, alliances, to minimize Risk and maximize Reward.

This isn't a game of Survivor we're playing here.  It's not 39 days of Outwit, Outplay, Outlast, after which we can all go home, someone wins a million dollars, the next person wins one hundred thousand, everyone gets paid AFTRA scale or better, and life goes on. 

My life affects yours.  My neighbor affects mine.  His family affects his.  Their friends affect them.  We are not required to "look out for each other", but we are required to understand that if someone's life falls apart, then we're all a little worse for it.  Similarly, if someone succeeds wildly, we're all a little better for it.  The stagnation of wealth and opportunity is the stagnation of society.  If you believe in American Exceptionalism, then BE Exceptional.  ACT Exceptional. 

There is no fate but that we make.  If we make no fate, it will be made for us.  If we Risk nothing, we are rewarded with hollow Rewards.  Look for the decay in American culture and you will find the rot of complacency.

No comments: