The Matthew Principle and Inequality

The Matthew Principle and Inequality

It is God who distributes; it is the LORD who lifts up and casts down, the LORD who brings dark and light, rain or shine, and all as He sees fit. The idea that society is the source of the distribution of goods is the deification of society. This is why socialist countries always have some of the highest wealth disparities; the masses must worship it’s god.

Secular sociologists occasionally borrow from Scripture. Robert Merton did. He discovered in the realm of science a law of inequality. A law with a direct correlation with the words of Jesus in Matthew 25:29, “For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”

Economists often call this the Pareto principle, but for you and I, in simple terms, we can call it The Matthew Principle.

The Matthew Principle (that is, the Pareto Principle) is the idea that inequality is natural. For example, 20% of salesmen produce 80% of the sales for any given company. And the top 20% of the the top 20% produce the 80% of the sales for that bracket. This applies to consumption as well as production. 20% of people who own shoes, for example, own 80% of the shoes. So, too, can this be applied to the products we sell. 20% of our products or services account for the majority of our actual sales.

One writer believes that this principle is precisely what Adam Smith wrote about in his defense of the free market. Why, then, do so many people think equal distribution is natural and just? Perry Marshall writes:

It is a law that almost nobody ever gets taught in school. In fact, our current educational system trains most of us to be blind to it, ignore it when we do see it, and even fight it as our enemy, instead of embrace it as our friend.

The Matthew Principle

This Matthew Effect, or Matthew Principal, was initially used to describe how fame and glory attracts more fame and glory in a disproportionate degree. For example, famous scientists continually get credit for the, sometimes better, work of non-famous scientists. The same holds true in broader academics; famous works are cited disproportionately, even if they are equal or even slightly inferior to obscure works.

Again, this is not the only sphere in which the Matthew Principle applies. It applies to virtually every sphere of reality.

For example, 20% of donors donate 80% of donations, while 80% of donors only donate about 20%. As again Perry Marshall explains:

Almost nobody reads simple election statistics that ’14 percent of the voters turned out at the polls in this election’ or ‘5 million people donated at least $5 to the election campaign’ and translates it into a vivid, meaningful picture of those people, all they way from casual interest to rabidly passionate and addicted.

Few people ever even consider that a tiny minority of the donors give almost all the money. And that the one million smallest donors gave less money than the top ten.

Men do not shop equally, work equally, or even give equally.

This law shows up even in technology; network hubs that initially have a greater number of links continue to grow at a multiplicative rate. The Matthew Effect is evident in the sphere of education as well. Those who struggle to read will cumulatively fall behind. Those who quickly learn to read well increase at a multiplicative rate.

Consequently, there is truth to the idea that initial failure leads to more failure, and initial success brings more success. Our pasts define us more than we care to admit.

In short, economic equality is a mythical unicorn. It is nowhere to be found. Not in nature, at any rate.

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