Luck is Partly a Function of Merit

By Lawrence Bush

Luck, according to some psychologists, comes more readily to those who deviate from routine. If you repeatedly walk the same path en route to work, shopping, or whatever, you’re likely to encounter the same neighbors, same sights and sounds, and same possibilities as the day before. If you vary your route, you vary your likely experiences, which broadens your range of having something lucky happen — like meeting your love, who happens to live five blocks over.

Luck is therefore partly a function of merit — if we count risk-taking as a feature of merit. For example, Moses chooses to amble off the beaten path and stumbles upon the burning bush. But in American society, which is fundamentally capitalistic, the idea that merit attracts luck is often used to tout the achievements of wealthy people and to deny the collective nature of economics (what Rava calls “sustenance”). Whereas Judaism, in texts such as Psalm 24 (“The earth is the Lord’s, and all of its fruits”), recognizes that wealth is a collective product — wrought from our shared blessings (natural resources) and based on generations of civilization-building, knowledge, infrastructure, effort, and community — those who place their faith in the marketplace would have us believe that the super-wealthy deserve their super-wealth (and the long lives and privileged children that often come with wealth) because they are just that marvelous, just that meritorious. Rava counters: It’s luck. Bow your head.

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