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11: Earning it

A Thousand Things to Talk About
A Thousand Things to Talk About
11: Earning it
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Photo: Philandpam on Flickr / Creative Commons

Today, we’re talking about earning it. Specifically…

Why is the idea that something “good” must be “earned” seemingly so pervasive?

Show notes and links:
Poverty and the Just World Hypothesis (Pando Daily)

The Prodestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (Amazon)


Full episode text

There’s a theory we mentioned before called the “just world hypothesis” or “just world fallacy” that states that a person’s actions will always bring a right, fitting, or morally fair result — that “good” things happen to people who have done “good” things, and those that do “bad” things will eventually be punished.

It’s a fallacy that is very attractive to believe, because sometimes the world just isn’t fair. We see this fallacy in statements like: “You’ll get what’s coming to you,” “What goes around, comes around,” and even “Serves you right.”

Combined with the historical focus on a “Protestant work ethic,” a social, political, and religious ideology first named as such in a 1904 treatise on capitalism, there has been a certain value placed in the idea that you “earn” whatever place you have in the world.

However, a close reading of history — or even the bible — tells us that one’s place in the world and social status has as much to do with what can’t be controlled as what can. So why does this idea seem to persist?