This article is from the archive of our partner .

Lingering unemployment gives special weight to financial expert James Kwak's sharp question: Do smart, hard-working people deserve to make more money?

Kwak's question comes as a response to some blog commenters' "vindictive snobbery" toward an out-of-luck family struggling with high credit card bills. One commenter said the problem is simply a matter of "someone [who] doesn't know how to manage their money." But Kwak argues that smarts and hard work aren't the only explanation of success, and even if they were, it "doesn't make it morally right that the 'winners of the genetic lottery' have better outcomes than the losers." Kwak proposes:

If you are willing to acknowledge that chance determines who you are to begin with, then it becomes obvious (to me at least) that public policy cannot simply seek to level the playing field, because that will just endorse a system that produces good outcomes for the lucky (the smart and hard-working) and bad outcomes for the unlucky. Instead, fairness dictates that policy should attempt to improve outcomes for the unlucky, even if that requires hurting outcomes for the lucky. But given that society is controlled by the lucky, I'm not holding my breath.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to