Discovery is the Problem

Discovery is the Solution

Explaining the Economic Argument for Social Equality to a 10-year-old

Imagine there were two people, and each of them was starting a business.

OK.

Now, there were 100 adults who could work living in the land where the two business owners lived. Each owner could hire as many of these workers as he or she wanted. Are you with me?

Umm, yeah. There are two business owners, and they have 100 workers to choose from.

That’s right. Now, here’s the interesting thing. The best workers were so good at working that the stuff they made for the company at the end of the day could be sold for $500. Out of the 100 workers, only five of them were this good at working. 20 of the workers were also quite good at working, but not as good as the 5 best workers. These workers made stuff that could be sold for $200 in a day’s work. Does this make sense?

Yes, it makes sense. Some people were better than others at working. Isn’t that true of everything? Like you’re good at working with computers, and other people aren’t as good.

Eh, I’m pretty good. But there are some people much better than me. Anyway, back to our story. So out of the 100 workers, 5 are awesome and 20 are pretty good. It turns out that 50 of the workers weren’t bad at working, but weren’t great. Kind of average. When they worked for a day they could make enough stuff to sell for $100. And there were 25 workers who were pretty bad. They could only make $25 worth of stuff in a day.

OK.

So, 5 awesome workers, 20 good workers, 50 OK workers, 25 bad workers. Makes sense?

Yeah. I’m not sure what the point is, but yeah.

OK, you’ve been very patient, so here’s the point. It turns out that 22 of the 25 bad workers grew up where their parents had been bad workers too. Almost everyone in their neighborhoods were bad workers too. Almost everyone they went to school with. The same is true for 25 of the 50 OK workers, though more of them came from all over the place. And 18 of 20 of the good workers came up together, living in families with parents who were good workers and going to school with other kids with the same kind of parents. Same is true for 4 of the 5 awesome workers.

OK, I get it, I get it, I get your point. So basically most people ended up with the same kinds of jobs as their parents and their friends and their neighbors and the people they went to school with. Not everyone, but most people.

Yup, that’s it.

So?

So if we could figure out how to help some of the bad workers be OK, and some of the OK workers be good, we’d have more people who could make more stuff that was worth more. Think about the whole country – there aren’t 100 people who can work, it’s more like 100 million. It would help the whole country if more of them were better workers. Plus, like we said, a lot of people grow up to be like their parents. So if we could help some people get ahead then we would be helping a lot of their kids and their grandchildren, and so on.

OK, OK. I get it, I get it. Can I watch the iPad now?