The radical moral implications of luck in human life

Acknowledging the role of luck is the secular equivalent of religious awakening

Image credit: Christina Animashaun/Vox

In July 2018 (when we first published this piece), there was a minor uproar when Kardashian scion Kylie Jenner, who is all of 21, appeared on the cover of Forbes’s 60 richest self-made women issue. As many people pointed out, Jenner’s success would have been impossible if she hadn’t been born white, healthy, rich, and famous. She built a successful cosmetics company—now valued at $900 million, according to Forbes—not just with hard work but on a towering foundation of good luck.

Around the same time, there was another minor uproar when Refinery29 published “A Week in New York City on $25/Hour,” an online diary by someone whose rent and bills are paid for by her parents. It turns out $25 an hour goes a lot further if you have no expenses!

These episodes illustrate what seems to be one of the enduring themes of our age: socially dominant groups, recipients of myriad unearned advantages, willfully refusing to acknowledge them, despite persistent efforts from socially disadvantaged groups. This is not a new theme, of course — it waxes and wanes with circumstance — but after a multi-decade rise in inequality, it has come roaring back to the fore.

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