Normal Luck

What if we find that luck is distributed among the human population according to the normal distribution curve in statistical science?

by J.R. Mooneyham
(previously partly under the pseudonym S.C. Summers)
REVISED 2-19-2002

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AUTHOR'S NOTE: Be sure to check out the chart below. It offers a brief summary of the lot of different sections of the population, based on the assumption that luck is distributed normally among us all. END NOTE.

This article consists solely of speculation, based upon a single, simple assumption. If this assumption were to be proven wrong, much of the following speculation based on it could be in error as well.

The assumption:

That luck is distributed among the human population according to the normal distribution curve in statistical science.

Some elements that would seem to support this assumption are:

First of all, that luck may be hereditary (at least in some significant ways):

There's at least four ways that "luck" seems to be obviously passed on genetically (either directly or indirectly): inherited wealth, health, looks, and certain mental and physical abilities. These transfers offer evidence both anecdotal and scientific.

Once a large enough fortune is established, it can conceiveably sustain unlimited generations of descendents, since it may grow considerably faster (via shrewd investments) than the numbers of people dependent on it (one human generation is oftimes considered to be around 25 years-- or 25 years of maturation is expected to be required for an individual to reproduce themself. Money, however, can significantly reproduce itself in a time frame much shorter than 25 years; therefore a given size fortune is theoretically capable of easily outpacing the population dependent upon it, if reasonably well invested, and no particularly rare catastrophe comes along to decimate it). Likewise a fortune lost can cause greater hardship for subsequent generations, than might otherwise be the case.

Genetic defects or predilections towards particular illnesses or infirmities, are a well-proven and accepted form of "luck" passed from parent to child. Likewise genetic immunities, and potentials (such as intelligence) are passed on from generation to generation, too.

With so much obvious evidence that many good things-- attractive appearence, good health, intelligence, and financial support-- are often passed from generation to generation, as well as bad things-- unattractiveness, ill health, deformities, mental deficiencies, and poverty-- it would seem a strong possibility that luck in general (which many would agree includes elements such as those just discussed) may be, at least partially, hereditary.

Indeed, many might say all the above pretty much sum up most of what luck is all about.

Secondly, that luck is distributed among the human population in a normal statistical fashion:

Since the science of statistics has shown many phenomena in nature to adhere to a normal distribution curve in application, might not luck-- at least of the inherited variety-- do likewise?

Data which seems to support normal or near normal distribution of various luck related attributes like alcoholism, disability, and income may be found in a wealth of sources. For example, roughly 11% of the U.S. population was found in 1987 to suffer from a disability of some sort. Likewise, roughly 11% was found to suffer from some degree of alcoholism. Both these percentages seem consistant with the 2% Cursed, and 14% Unfortunate figures offered by this article. A total of 16% of the population could be burdened with Cursed or Unfortunate levels of luck, and studies show 11% population estimates for the numbers of the disabled and alcoholic, respectively. (The 11% estimates are based on information from Inside America by Louis Harris, 1987, pages 194 and 60 respectively).

Comparing global population percentages and financial fortunes between one extreme and the other, the richest 20% of the world's population enjoy 150 times the level of income that the poorest 20% do (Businessweek, Growth vs. Environment, May 11, 1992, page 69). Compare this figure to the estimates in this article of 16% of the world's population representing both Cursed and Unfortunate individuals, and another 16% representing a combination of Blessed and Very Lucky persons, and the assumption on which this article is based doesn't seem very far fetched at all. Indeed, over the next few decades, as our statistical sampling and sciences improve, we could possibly discover the normal distribution rates given here to be even more accurate than they already appear.

Some Implications of a Normal Distribution of Luck Among the Population

Getting what you want as opposed to what you need

If luck is genetically based, in part or in whole, than it would by necessity comprise a survival advantage of some sort, rather than an evolutionary wish-fulfillment policy; otherwise it would not have evolved in the first place.

So, sorry, but true luck as we're discussing here is not necessarily of the 'getting lucky with the head cheerleader' variety, or public triumph over all challengers in sports competitions, at least in most cases.

Rather, real luck would tend to pertain in some way to continuance of and improvement in the genetic line, and its ability to cope with adverse changes in the environment. This could manifest itself in an extended lifespan or reproductive cycle (which provides more chances for reproduction), good health, and better than average intelligence (allowing for improved self-defense, and protection and nurturing of children), among other elements. How these things are accomplished would not necessarily be straightforward or simple, even if we enjoyed the luxury of having meticulous case studies available to us for examination.

How could we make the case for celebrity status being a survival advantage? Well, any financial wealth derived therefrom would certainly justify it, evolution-wise. Plus, the increased attention lavished on celebrities might provide them with enhanced care in medical situations and others (if you were hurt, it'd usually be more beneficial than not to be the President of the United States in 1995, or the chief of the tribe in 1095). This status could also provide a person with a greatly expanded selection of potential mates to choose from (groupies, or even other apparently luck-privileged folks, i.e. Cindy Crawford and Richard Gere, Bruce Willis and Demi Moore).

But there's also a flip-side to some of this. After all, excessive media attention can attract stalkers and other crazies too-- the very worst examples of the millions who usually are never seen or heard from among the Cursed and Unfortunate ranks.

Don't get me wrong. Mentally deficient or disturbed people probably exist among all classes of luck. The difference is that those in the higher classes are usually either sequestered from society in their own ultra-comfortable cocoons, or else manage to avoid being caught or connected with any acts of harm or injury inflicted on others, for reasons of their natural luck, and possible familial protectors.

And it should be remembered that as a lower rank on the luck ladder predisposes one towards all sorts of ills, it also increases the probability of diminished mental capacity or increased mental illness. So a guess that the percentages of the Cursed and Unfortunate that are mentally afflicted would be considerably higher than that among the Very Lucky and Blessed, probably would not be far from the truth.

Another relevant factor is that celebrity status usually brings with it greater possible security and protection as well (examples could include bodyguards, armored limousines, ultra secure housing, and more), which could often balance out or overpower any dangers incurred by the extra attention.

Anyway, the point here is that from an evolutionary perspective, luck may have much more to do with making sure you're reasonably well fed, healthy, and equipped with the basic survival skills (or lack of need for them, as the case may be), and practically nothing at all to do with realizing your personal fantasies of wealth, power, fame, or bikini-clad supermodel groupies hanging around your RV.

It could well be that some one of the Blessed 2% is sitting on a beach in Bermuda right now, with a stunningly beautiful native girl beside him (maybe two), griping about his luck that "Buffy" from Martha's Vinyard wouldn't join him for the weekend. He's not happy, but rather annoyed and dejected, because this is as bad as things ever get for him.

Good luck, like benevolence, may require some bouts with its opposite to be truly appreciated.

General thoughts on a normal distribution curve of luck

Larry Niven, in his science fiction novels about Ringworld, speculated that the human race might eventually begin specifically breeding itself for luck, by way of reproductive lotteries.

Never mind that we almost can't help but breed ourselves for luck-- for in genetic terms the unluckiest always die before they can even make an attempt to reproduce-- and the luckiest tend to reproduce almost at will.

Of course, it could be that there's a weird form of entropy in the universe regarding luck, that requires a certain ratio of people experiencing bad luck to balance those enjoying good.

How the world might cope with the worst potential problems arising from a normal distribution of luck

Problem: The Blessed 2%, who normally inherit power or other influence over the rest, have little or no idea about how most people truly live, or how the world works for the other 98% of the population. Therefore they will repeatedly make the same mistakes, essentially forcing the rest of the human race to repeat errors of history over and over again. Excesses in cruelty and ignorance, or simple inattention to festering problems which arise will over and over again create new holocausts, new depressions, new wars, that otherwise would never have to happen-- so long as the Blessed 2% remain in control of too much power and influence over events.

Opportunity: It may also be the case that this Blessed 2% is akin to a real life Goose-who-laid-the-Golden-Egg, in some respects. That is, it may be that physical laws will tend to replenish whatever resources are siphoned off these individuals, up to a certain high threshold of tolerance. This 'fountain of riches' may not sustain the individual in question indefinitely, or be capable of totally unbounded generation of wealth, but it may be the closest thing to it that's available in this reality. If this turned out to be true, it would be a crime to tax these people at the same rates applied to those of lesser luck-- after all, the essential system used for everyone else in the world is to tax them at roughly 10 to 50% of their absolute ability to generate income. For the Blessed 2% this would work out to near 0% taxes, as their natural luck would promptly replace whatever was taken from them, with little or no effort on the part of the Blessed individual involved. And yet those in the Blessed two percent's typical tax bracket usually enjoy many tax breaks by which they may not only reduce their official burden to 0%, but actually make a profit with the same system that those of lesser luck suffer from so mightily. Indeed, if there is such a thing as a Blessed 2% in the world, then one of the simplest ways to make the present tax system even more cruel and unjust would be an implementation of a so called 'flat' tax-- for this would amount to a grossly unfair burden on the other 98% of the population, compared to the 2% Blessed.

Solution: Make government and business operate more along the lines of meritocracies than is usually the case today. Put substantial restrictions on the amount of wealth and power that may be gained solely through inheritance. These actions will not and cannot completely overcome the effects of a normal distribution of luck, but they can help limit the grosser dehibilitating effects on the more general population, by making for increased probabilities that the levers of power will go more often to people with the real world experience and knowledge to wield them, than to those without such expertise.

One guideline for placing limits on legacies is to try to prevent or minimize direct or indirect control over large numbers of other people being handed down from one generation to the next of the same family, where such transfer is based on little more than lineage. Inheritances may still be large enough to provide a very comfortable existence for children and others, but should not give them immediate or full access to the levers of power in government or corporations, when the children have not themselves proved to possess the appropriate skills or motivations for such posts.

Problem: The needs of the Cursed 2% are near infinite, and yet almost nothing can truly be done to help them-- cosmic statistics render them ever the victim.

Solution: Give the cursed the choice of a quick, painless death if they desire it, to relieve their suffering in the most humane way possible. Also provide easy and free help about all forms of birth control for this fraction of the population, in an effort to minimize their future numbers (though admittedly it may be difficult to affect this ratio one way or the other, over the long run, if a normal distribution is cosmically dictated).

As you can see, we are suggesting drastic curbs here on the normal circumstances of both the Cursed and the Blessed. We remove much of the automatic access to excessive power and wealth traditionally enjoyed by the Blessed, and exercised heavy-handedly over the less fortunate majority. We also give an escape route to the Cursed, by which they may opt out of their pitiful existence (taking future Cursed generations with them), as well as relieve the drain on resources required to attempt to care for them otherwise.

Dealing with lesser problems implied by Normal Luck

The other groups do not require such drastic measures as the combination 4% of the Blessed and Cursed.

The Very Lucky tend to be among the upper middle-class and above in society, and thus are usually well taken care of, without any added help required. So government scholarships, grants, and other subsidies are redundant and wasteful when directed their way.

This largess should rather be directed towards the Unfortunate and the Average, in an attempt to provide quality education and related support to sufficient numbers of this population so that they will be better able to represent themselves in the halls of power, in numbers truly proportional to their majority status in the general population. In the past the Blessed 2% and Very Lucky 14% may have enjoyed a far greater representation in the upper levels of government and business than their proportion of the general population would suggest. Does it seem logical for people with little or no knowledge of how the other 84% of persons live to be given the authority to make the laws for the nation (or the world) as whole?

No. Of course not.

On the other hand, if we were to create a potential pool of business executives and politicians of Average and Unfortunate roots who were as well-educated and trained as their analog among the Very Lucky and Blessed, we would likely enjoy much less one sided and dogmatic politico-economic decisions made in the future, and see a public discourse much more balanced in point of view and interests than they are today, when the luckiest tend to dominate the proceedings.

Problem: Deficit spending by government.

Solution: As seen above, assuming our basic premise about luck to be true, there's many good reasons to apply heavy taxes and liabilities on the Blessed 2% (of a scale many would consider confiscatory in our possible 21st century ignorance of how the world works), as well as remove many of the financial perks presently enjoyed by the Very Lucky 14%. Both these measures combined would raise revenues while cutting spending on the part of government-- and yet do amazingly small harm to the parties so targeted. For the Blessed 2% may enjoy a virtual immunity from real harm, as cosmic forces tend to support them in other ways if some things are taken from them. And the Very Lucky would only be losing their present subsidies from government, which for the most part are unneeded by them anyway. Another benefit would come from the savings incurred by the euthanasia and increased birth control of those among the Cursed 2% who choose to accept it; society as a whole would no longer be obligated to subsidize a never-ending trip through living hell for those wretched souls-- rather, they could be released from their prison to the comparatively blissful oblivion of death.

A group of wealthy people (enjoying over $125,000 incomes or over $500,000 in net assets) have formed an organization named Responsible Wealth, which say they and others like them are not taxxed as much as they should be in a just and fair society.

-- This is no April Fool's joke: Rich protest they aren't taxed enough By LEO RENNERT; McClatchy Newspapers; 3/31/1998

Summary: We should redistribute a good size chunk of the inherited wealth and power of the Blessed among the other factions of the population, in order to minimize the repetition of mistakes from the past, and provide the Cursed with the option of improved birth control or humane assisted suicide (if they want either), to lessen their misery and the drain on resources otherwise required to try to provide them with survival and dignity in the face of overwhelming odds. We should completely cut scholarships, grants, and other subsidies to the Very Lucky for education and business development, redirecting these funds instead to the increased support for education, training, and small business development among the Unfortunate and the Average, in an attempt to raise their representation in business and government circles to something more closely representative of their majority status in the population.

World history seen in the context of a normal luck distribution

It could well be that the history of humanity has largely been written or created at the behest of generation after generation of the Very Lucky 14%, who usually tend to hold leadership positions over the rest of the population. While the Blessed 2% may often inherit positions of power, or otherwise have them bequeathed upon them with little test of competency for the station, they rarely enter and then win elections-- simply because they usually have far more enjoyable and interesting things to do with their time. However, some of the most horrific catastrophes and wondrous beauties appearing in human history could probably be attributed to the Blessed 2% by temprement and talents.

This means we could have certain members of the Blessed 2% to thank for some of the very worst (and best) examples of humanity seen so far: the WWII Holocaust, the American Revolution, Stalin's reign of terror in the U.S.S.R, and Leonardo Da Vinci among them.

It also means, for better or worse, that competing factions among the Very Lucky have up to now been largely responsible for our long term trends in politics, economics, and technology.

It could be argued that the Very Lucky have done a good job in all these areas, as democracy and free markets seem to be becoming the standards all over the world.

It could also be argued that they haven't done such a good job. After all, free markets have always existed; they are a natural phenomenon, that can only be distorted by the manipulations of government and business. And democracy has done anything but sweep the world in rapid fashion; it first appeared in Greece over 2000 years ago, and has progressed since then in fits and starts to finally reach the somewhat-less-than-grand status that can be claimed for it today. Global living standards on average haven't progressed a great deal in the last few centuries; only the 25% of the population living in the developed countries get the impression that it has. The other 75% of people still suffer mightily from poverty and primitive conditions on a massive scale-- living not much differently now from how their great-grandparents (or even earlier ancestors) did.

Implications for the developed countries

Poor third world countries which appear to consist mainly of large concentrations of Cursed individuals should be written off completely as far as foreign aid is concerned. Unless and except where such aid may consist mostly of providing voluntary choices including a quick and painless death, or birth control, such as is offered the Cursed minority within the developed states themselves.

Foreign aid to Blessed states-- no matter whether for political, economic, or military reasons-- should not only be stopped, but made illegal, as it is an abominable waste of resources needed desperately elsewhere.

It could well be that the Blessed 2% represent a potentially inexhaustible (or nearly so) source of wealth for the world as a whole, as their natural support from the environment will tend to replenish whatever is taken (or 'harvested') from them. The Blessed can and may move themselves and their assets from nation to nation to avoid or reduce such 'harvesting', but if the basic premise of this article were ever scientifically proven, eventually all of human society would consolidate their laws to prevent such escapes. And, the more enlightened of the Blessed might even recognize that such 'harvesting' will actually be no more than what society as a whole has done historically with all other groups within its body-- it's just that the Blessed 2% up to now and for the foreseeable future may be the only faction capable of usually avoiding such burdensome contributions to their fellow human beings.

Implications for individuals

Individuals among the Blessed 2%

Enjoy this time. For with the increased information gathering and statistical analysis technologies emerging today, it's only a matter of time before your secret is out, and ways are devised to drag you kicking and screaming into contributing to society in the same ways the other 98% of the population have always been forced to. This means you'll have real responsibilities and significant limitations on your goals and efforts for the first time ever, and be-- get ready for this-- accountable for your actions. You also won't be able to as freely and easily pass on that great wealth or high position as it was passed to you.

You can expect your genetic property rights to be nationalized (or globalized) by authorities at some point-- even as those same rights of the other classes are protected. This will seem grossly unfair to you, but will happen eventually, despite your efforts to stop it-- unless....

Just about the only way you could stave off the state someday legislating public ownership of your DNA would be to immediately set about establishing some sort of documentation proving that you and your family have been in effect breeding yourselves over a period of generations to obtain at least a few of the major advantages you now enjoy, such as certain disease immunities, longetivity, intelligence, and other elements. If you can effectively prove this is so, and therefore that you did not come by these advantages purely by chance, the law will probably protect your ownership rights to your own DNA.

Please note that it wouldn't be necessary to prove that your family 'earned' all its present advantages this way-- just that it could have been directly responsible for a few important parts of those advantages. Proving this much would likely protect all your other code advantages as well, as those other things could have come about too as a result of your calculated breeding, but as 'fortuitous by products' of your industry, rather than purely random chance.

Individuals among the Very Lucky 14%

Though you will soon lose many of the subsidies you enjoyed up to now from government, you will still enjoy positions of power and leadership in society. For not only will your natural luck buoy you (like the Blessed, only to a more moderate degree), but society as a whole needs your ability and usually good judgements to continue its progress in many areas. You are, and will remain, the undisputed leaders of us all. However, those among you who use your abilties to act as predators among the Average and Unfortunate will see your freedoms and territory sharply curtailed in years to come, as your status is more fully realized, understood, and regulated.

Individuals among the Average 68%

You live among the most disorganized and vulnerable group of all. The great uncertainty your experience has given you up to now makes you ripe pickings for any Very Lucky person you happen to come in contact with.

The best thing you can do is consciously and aggressively continue to learn, and keep an open mind. The more you learn and understand about the world, the less others will be able to exploit your uncertainty. Though knowledge and experience are no full substitute for excellent luck, they can be crafted into something equivalent to a good portion of same.

All the hype we are bombarded with these days in advertising and lifestyle depictions on sitcoms tend to make you feel as if you're not Average, but below-Average in luck-- that you're actually one of the Unfortunates or the Cursed, when in actuality you're not. It's perfectly normal for those of Average luck to have few moments of real excitement or intense pleasure in their lives-- the flip side is that you also have few moments of real terror or great pain. Upon full consideration of this balance, many folks might find Average status not so bad after all.

In some ways your Average existance would be considered the best platform of all for those souls among us seeking true enlightenment and the ultimate experience of what being human really means-- because you'll suffer far less of the distractions and temptations that easily throw other groups off course from their intended journeys through life, and when you succeed in the face of a particular challenge, you'll know you did it on your own, without the benevolent aid of some cosmic referee.

Being Average, you're almost exactly in the middle of human experience, usually shielded from the worst (and best) extremes of either end, and so enjoy a greater potential value in simple changes in attitude than anyone from the other groups. You may derive as much or more benefit from simply choosing to be more confident or aggressive, than practically any of these others may. Your decision won't necessarily change the end results of your actions or decisions, but you'll probably derive greater inner satisfaction and peace than your peers among the Average class. In other words, if you realize that your very best efforts in many cases will only marginally effect the results of your actions, and resolve that these marginal results are good enough to make the effort worthwhile, you can enjoy an outlook on life similar to that of a Very Lucky individual, rather than the Average that you are. And so be happier in general than your Average comrades.

Individuals among the Unfortunate 14%

Help may be on the way, in the form of improved scientific instruments and data, that might confirm the speculations in this article. If a normal distribution of luck becomes accepted as fact, changes in government and corporate policies may be large, and far more beneficial to the lower luck classes than they have been in the past. The bad news is that these changes will likely come about no sooner than some ten to thirty years from now.

Individuals among the Cursed 2%

Sorry, but you'll still have to suffer for another couple of decades before your plight is realized and acknowledged by the others. Don't try to take matters into your own hands, as that's the unique circumstances in which you are trapped; any changes you make on your own will tend to only make matters worse. Let others make your decisions and take actions for you, where feasible, as they will almost certainly get better results than you can yourself (unless they are of the Cursed class too). All you can really do is try to survive and eke out as best you can whatever precious bits of happiness you can find among your sorrows.

Sorry again, but long before you get any direct relief from society, society will actually be making your life harder in yet another way; they will deny you the right to reproduce. Considering your circumstances, and the high probability that'd you'd pass on your plight to your children, this would appear objectively to be a sound and fair decision on the part of authorities. However, if you've always looked forward to having a family, this might seem the worst part of all to your predicament.

Fraternization among classes

How well (and how often) do different classes of the luck-starved and luck-privileged mix?

Well, if luck is largely inherited and manifested in the ways spoken of here, luck classes will tend to live in clusters composed of their own kind-- just as financial classes are usually seen to do. So like will tend to rub elbows with like.

This means that although you may have associates which vary wildly in their luck status from your own, you and your very best friend will probably be roughly equal in terms of luck. Sure, one is probably more physically attractive or a bit better off financially, but that one will also be lacking in something equally important like a bit of additional social savvy or charisma or business sense, that the other possesses in abundance.

And being a natural phenomenon, luck could run in cycles, similar to that claimed for biorthyms, with any one individual's luck being better on some days than others-- but with the overall pattern usually tracking inside a well marked range on the chart, all the while.

This means you and your friend could easily perceive your relative lots of luck to be considerably different on a daily basis, when in fact they were not, after averaging out the results over a period of weeks or months.

In some perverted sorts of relationships, where there's a hunger for real disequilibrium on the part of both parties, you might find relationships composed of unlike individuals in terms of their intrinsic luck. In this category might you find sadistic-masochistic partnerships, as well as domineering leader/cowed followers, such as in cults and many somewhat over-zealous religious organizations.

In more acceptable couplings, you might find business partners or other associates where one's talents or resources are sufficiently well complemented by the other's to overcome any negatives stemming from a gross luck imbalance. Many strong marriages and successful small businesses may be structured along these lines.

In the main, however, the farther apart on the chart two people are, the less chance they'll join in any lasting sort of relationship, except as a matter of coercion, mental incompetence (on the part of the lesser lucky), convenience, practicality, or complementery survival advantages of some sort.

Class Warfare

Class warfare would appear to be a strong possibility from all this, at first glance. However, that wouldn't necessarily occur even if all this is exactly true. For remember that the natural leaders of the average and unfortunate factions will be the Very Lucky-- or that group just this side of the Blessed. Such leadership would not often incite their followers into full scale assault on the Blessed, though they might appear to come close at times. No, any outright attack on the maximally privileged few would likely come more often from a gross miscalculation on someone's part, or due to mistaken identities.

In any case, the Cursed 2% are rarely a threat to anyone but themselves, and at their most dangerous would be hard pressed to bring to bear in any single, concerted assault more than a handful of their members: a dozen at most. The Cursed are a tiny minority to start with, and so isolated among the population they cannot collect in any large scale organizational sense. The Cursed also have none of the persuasive power found so often among the Very Lucky, and so could not gather support through leadership means either. Finally, there is the rampant presence of illness, injury, and infirmity among the Cursed to consider. If anyone absolutely had to have an enemy, and could choose from what Luck class their enemy would spring from, they would surely choose the Cursed class, as these folks are almost by definition harmless under practically any and all conditions likely to be encountered by a reasonably cautious person.

The Cursed

2% of the population may be burdened with a never-ending chain of awful circumstances and events. Many of these folks are so terribly afflicted they're born deformed, disabled, and maybe mentally deficient, into poor, abusive, unstable households, in economically depressed areas of the world. The vast majority of these unfortunates would likely be better off never having been born in the first place-- but that would require a bit of good luck, which they just don't have. This group rarely has a choice to be anything but a victim.

I started to write a description of what the lives of these poor people must be like, but what I saw was so terrible I couldn't bear to type it in.

The worst part for them is that there's no escape, and no relief-- ever (except possibly where such relief turns out to be an even crueler joke than they are normally prey to).

Here are human beings forced to live as animals-- or worse.

The Unfortunate

14% of the population may have truly bad luck. Usually pretty rough, occasionally only bad, almost never what you'd call good. These folks will tend to be radical or extremist in their politics, whether conservative or liberal, as their primary aims will be to hold off further disaster or else obtain more aid in dealing with their daily misery. These folks perceive themselves as living on the edge of a cliff, in earthquake country, surrounded by hostiles of one kind or another. They tend to fear change, any change, because the main change they have come to expect in their lives is one final slide into the abyss. Here is where many of the very hardest working folks with the worst jobs live. Many would go the serious survivalist/self-sufficiency route, pulling out of society altogether, if they had the resources-- but they rarely have access to such largess. So instead they tend to be devoutly religious (hoping against hope that either a god will relent in some dire moment and save them, or, that when they die they might really get to have some consistent happiness and a little pleasure at last) and/or be socially/politically active. Mostly, you can sum up these folks in two words: Fear and Faith. They typically have plenty of both.

The Average Majority

68% of the population may have so-so luck. Sometimes bad, sometimes good, almost never terrible or terrific. These folks hardly ever win the lottery, but they also rarely get into horrific car crashes, or develop incurable diseases. Their life is basically hum drum with few highs or lows, so long as they don't work hard at changing things for better or worse. This is the majority of the population, and is represented in virtually every political stripe you could name. The major thrust of this group however is anger, frustration, confusion, indecision, procrastination, and uncertainty, as they get alternatively punished and rewarded on a wildly random basis, and therefore are ill-equipped to make logical decisions on a great many important matters, through no fault of their own. Their great uncertainty makes them highly vulnerable to anyone who can seem to make sense of their circumstances, or give them more confidence in almost any aspect of their life or beliefs. Madison Avenue marketers, evangelists, and politicians love this group, as it is their bedrock support, often as easily moved in the short run as a weather vane in the wind. This majority has the heaviest weight in public opinion polls, and so may help to explain the seemingly nonexistent attention span of folks in developed nations like the U.S. these days. Uncertain, inattentive to anything but the most sensationalistic of matters, this group makes up the wildly careening, ever off balance core of our present society, which can take us from a successful Moon landing in one moment to a disasterous war in Southeast Asia in the next. This group is often the largest source of today's unpredictability in fashions, fads, and political trends. This group, so anchored to moderate fortunes in their personal lives, is ironically often drawn or attracted towards extremes in ideas or actions; hence, the thirst for certainty, sensationalism, passion, and violence.

This group is also a natural for believing in grand conspiracies. Remember, they're often desperate for explanations and certainty, and primed from experience to believe in plots which are beyond their own ability to affect or stop.

40% of US households earning up to $35,000 a year believe a sweepstakes or lottery win is the best way to obtain half a million dollars. Just 30% thought personal savings and investment could accomplish the same goal.

50% of US households in 1999 possess less than $1000 in net assets, financially-speaking. The average household also suffers consumer debt (like credit card debt) amounting to more than 50% of their gross financial assets.

-- Why Save? Many Americans Hope For Lottery Win; Reuters/Yahoo! Top Stories Headlines; October 28, 1999

The Very Lucky

14% of the population may have great luck. Almost always excellent, sometimes only good, almost never bad. This group tends to be more savvy than anyone else among the population, as they suffer just enough adversity to avoid the blindness of the blessed, yet not so much pain and random punishment/reward as the unfortunate/average classes to be permanently scarred or made overly pessimistic by it all. Their natural good fortune serves as a fairly reliable floor of support for their ventures, helping them to succeed at many things, if not all. These people are natural leaders for those in the average category, and may often as not perform many good works for the community as a whole in this capacity. However, this group also enjoys sufficient advantage to be natural predators on those less fortunate, if they are so inclined. So while this group is a source of heroes and great leaders, it's also a source of charletons, bandits, and cult leaders.

The one word that would sum up this group is confidence. Confidence in themselves, and the ability to inspire confidence in others-- if not by skill or charisma, then just by their better than average luck, which can often make them seem smarter, stronger, or quicker to their fellows than they truly are.

This group's politics? Usually conservative, as they are heavily vested in the status quo, and have experienced just enough misfortune in their lives to be wary of many changes.

Among this group's favorite elements are mysteries, puzzles, mind games, problem solving, gambling, and high risk challenges.

The Blessed

2% of the population may enjoy a virtually unbroken string of excellent luck throughout their entire lives. Many of these folks will be born into wealthy, well adjusted families, and be naturally attractive, healthy, intelligent, graceful, and talented in many ways. For these lucky elite, despite their intelligence, it can be very difficult to understand or sympathize with those suffering less fortunate circumstances-- after all, based on their own firsthand experience, life seems to almost always give people what they want or ask for. So precious few folks really need or deserve help of any kind, in their view.

A generalized summary of this group's attitude would be bored, spoiled, and usually uninterested in anything remotely important to an Average person (Contrary to what many might expect, members of the Blessed are not usually involved in the heated defense of the rich you see in televised discussions; rather, it is the Very Lucky who tackle that job: because they often believe they themselves might someday join the ranks of the Blessed too.).

The politics of the Blessed? Usually none, or minimal. They have far more fun things to do, and politics rarely affects their lives in any signicant way. But if they do choose an affiliation, it's likely as randomly done as the decisions of the Average-- another group which perceives little difference between which party wins a given election, as new laws rarely affect them for good or ill either. But of course the Blessed are not usually so vulnerable to external influences regarding their opinions as the Average-- and so when the Blessed do choose a political party, the choice is usually less coerced or misguided than those of the Average. You'll find everything from radical conservatives to bleeding heart liberals among the Blessed, possibly in roughly equal portions.

The Blessed are the most vulnerable of any groups to voluntary excesses of all sorts; for they and they alone most often possess the resources with which to pursue such excesses: great wealth and the time to exploit it fully in terms of secular pleasures. Everyone else is usually better anchored to reality with fulltime jobs and other responsibilities demanding their personal attention; items which they can not possibly hand off to someone else, for more than a few days or weeks at most.

One natural service the Blessed may perform for the rest of us is as an early warning system for society. You see, throughout history the Blessed have often provided a preview of how the middle class of a later age will live and behave, once general economic circumstances have raised Average living standards to approximately match those of an earlier Blessed group; for example, a middle class citizen today (in the developed nations) probably lives as good or better than a typical King of Europe did, several centuries ago (though the King had real horses pulling his wagon and we have horsepower in the form of engines; the King had slaves and servants to gather and prepare his food, where we have an efficient market system which essentially places hundreds of folks in our employ to provide the loaf of bread we buy at the market for a pittance; and where the King might have had musicians and dancers for entertainment, we have electronic video games, TV, and computers offering us the work of literally thousands of virtual servants from which to choose from). Extrapolating from this, by observing the Blessed of today we might get an inkling of how the average folks of 2025-2030 might be living or behaving (yes, the time lag in living standards between the Blessed and the Average (in the developed countries at least) seems to have been shrinking drastically the last few centuries-- but that's a good thing, don't you think?).

In other words, the Blessed are our technological canaries*; since they always get first shot at the latest wonders and toys of modern technology, they may also be the first casualties of it (or the changes in behavior that such toys bring about).

Even better, these human guinea pigs may be largely immune to the worst effects of many ills; where an average luck person would die from a particular insult on their health or well being, a Blessed individual might only be deeply ill for a short time, and then recover; ergo, the Blessed in general may be the best equipped explorers for the very outer limits of the human condition, among us all. In addition to this, medical science is highly motivated by profit to resolve the afflictions of the Blessed more than any others; and so any unusual injury or illness among the Blessed is bound to receive closer scrutiny and faster remedy by the medical community, than a similar affliction among any of the other classes.

In other words, some satisfactory treatment for a particular new affliction of modern living should already be available when the rest of us first encounter a need for it, largely due to the Blessed minority's trailblazing ways.

UPDATE: Could it be that there's yet another level of complexity in all this? That perhaps the same person could be labeled "Blessed" in one facet of life, while simultaneously "Cursed" in another? For instance, they might possess a natural immunity to AIDS, but also be dirt poor and uneducated. This would represent a mix of luck in both the Blessed and Cursed magnitudes, regarding different areas of life and welfare. Or should the varying magnitudes of luck in such cases be averaged together to get the true measure of an individual's luck quotient?

*Miners used to carry caged canaries into the mines with them as a warning system. The canaries would die first of asphyxiation, giving the miners an early warning to vacate an improperly ventilated shaft.

The above article(s) come from and make references to a collection copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002 by J.R. Mooneyham (except where otherwise noted in the text). Text here explicitly authored by J.R. Mooneyham may be freely copied and distributed for non-commercial purposes in paper and electronic form without charge if this copyright paragraph and link to the timeline ( are included.

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