But in general it seems to me that we pay extraordinarily little attention to the giant role played by luck and happenstance in determining who becomes a super-successful businessman. Bill Gates, for example, clearly knows something about software and something about business. But there are lots of people who fit that bill. There’s only one Gates because it’s in the nature of things that only one firm gets to write the operating system that, thanks to strong network effects, becomes dominant and lets you start reaping monopoly profits. Nothing wrong with it, that’s life. But in general, as a society we tend to treat successful businessmen as if they were omniscient central planners who’d gotten rich through their powers of clairvoyance. In fact, the whole point of having businessmen instead of central planners is that nobody’s that omniscient—we let some flowers bloom and some chips fall and life moves on. But there’s no particular reason to believe that the ex post winners have enormous insights. If you hang around a casino, on any given night someone’s going to make money playing roulette, but that doesn’t mean you should ask him about his roulette strategy and it certainly doesn’t mean you should ask his opinion about public policy issues far outside his area of focus.
Armey: Medicare is tyranny!