Warren Buffett in the Ovarian Lottery

Warren Buffett has spoken from time to time about the consequences of what he called the “ovarian lottery” – the random accident of why you were born with one time, place and personality and not another.

This is not a new idea. Some of you know this as a version of what philosopher John Rawls talked about in his 1971 book. Justice theory when he discussed how justice requires decisions to be made behind a “veil of ignorance”. Going back, this is a version of what Adam Smith was talking about in 1759 in his first classic book. moral feelingswhen he discusses morality from the point of view of an “impartial spectator” – a hypothetical person who is not personally involved in the particular situation being discussed. There are, of course, differences in how this idea is used in each case, but the general idea is that in order to give a fair or moral assessment, you need to personally step back from the situation so that instead you can imagine that would be fair or just. ethical if you didn’t know what role you might end up playing.

Buffett’s story is vivid in its own way and focuses on his feelings of gratitude and gratitude. Here I am quoting transcript of a Q&A session Warren Buffett had with a group of students at the University of Florida Business School in 1998.:

I am extremely lucky. I mean I’m using this example and I’ll take a minute or two because I think it’s worth thinking a bit. Let’s just assume that 24 hours before you were born, a genie came to you and said, “Herb, you look very promising and I’m in big trouble. I have to design the world you will live in. I decided it was too harsh; you design it. … You say, “I can design anything? Should there be a catch? Genie says there is a catch. You do not know whether you will be born black or white, rich or poor, male or female, infirm or healthy, intelligent or mentally retarded. All you know is that you are going to take one ball from a barrel of 5.8 billion (balls). You are about to participate in the ovarian lottery. And that will be the most important thing in your life, because it will determine whether you are born here or in Afghanistan, whether you are born with an IQ of 130 or 70. a lot. What type of world are you going to create?

I think it’s a good way to look at social problems, because without knowing what ball you’re going to get, you’re going to want to design a system that will provide a lot of goods and services, because you want people in balance to live good. And you want it to produce more and more, so that your children live better than you, and your grandchildren live better than their parents. But you also need a system that produces a lot of goods and
services that will not leave behind a person who accidentally hit the wrong ball and is poorly programmed for this particular system.

I’m perfectly suited to the system I’m in here. I went out and got into something that allows me to place capital. There is nothing so wonderful about it. If we were all stuck somewhere on a desert island and never intended to get off it, the most valuable person there would be the one who, over time, could grow the most rice. I can say: “I can allocate capital!” You wouldn’t be very happy about that. So I was born in the right place. [Bill] Gates says that if I had been born three million years ago, I would have been some animal’s dinner. He says, “You can’t run very fast, you can’t climb trees, you can’t do anything.” You would have been devoured on the first day. You are lucky; you were born today. And I

Back to the question, here is this barrel with 6.5 billion balls, everything in the world, if you could put your ball back and they drew 100 balls at random and you had to choose one of them, would you put your ball back? Now the 100 balls that you are going to pull, about 5 of them will be American, 95/5. So if you want to be in this country, you will only have 5 balls, half of them will be women and half will be men – I will let you decide how you will vote on this. Half of them will have below average intelligence, and half will have above average intelligence. Would you like to put your ball in there? Most of you won’t want to put your ball back in to get 100. So you’re saying, I’m in the top 1% of people in the world right now, I’m sitting in this room in the top 1% in the world.

Well, that’s how I feel. I was lucky to be born where I was because it was 50 to 1 in the United States when I was born. I was lucky with my parents, lucky with all things and lucky that I am arranged in such a way that in a market economy it pays off for me like crazy. It doesn’t pay off either for someone who is a good citizen like me, (by) leading Boy Scout troopers, teaching Sunday school or whatever, raising great families, but just not related to the same thing. like me So I’m very lucky.

I suppose it’s easy to feel “extremely lucky” if your name is at the top of the list of the richest people in the world! But I, too, was lucky in my parents, lucky in my marriage, lucky in good health, lucky in my job, lucky to live in a time and place where myopia and bookishness could lead to upper-middle-class economic security, lucky to live in a time and place. with considerable freedom and not destroyed by war. My list of “meaningful life tips” is pretty short. But for me, “count your blessings” is at the top of the list.