Monday, July 16, 2012

Concerning the Choice and Chance affecting the human affairs and destiny

Niccolo Machiavelli, elaborating on the matter, in his "The Prince", was one of the best explanations I could find, saying:

"I am not ignorant that many have been and are of the opinion that human affairs are so governed by Fortune and by God, that men cannot alter them by any prudence of theirs, and indeed have no remedy against them; and for this reason have come to think that it is not worth while to labor much about anything, but that they must leave everything to be determined by chance.

"Often when I turn the matter over, I am in part inclined to agree with this opinion, which has had the readier acceptance in our times from the great changes in things which we have seen, and every day see happen contrary to all human expectation. Nevertheless, that our free will be not wholly set aside, I think it may be the case that Fortune is the mistress of one half our actions, and yet leaves the control of the other half, or a little less, to ourselves. And I would liken her to one of those wild torrents which, when angry, overflow the plains, sweep away trees and houses, and carry off soil from one bank to throw it down upon the other. Every one flees before them, and yields to their fury without the least power to resist. And yet, though this be their nature, it does not follow that in seasons of fair weather, men cannot, by constructing weirs and moles, take such precautions as will cause them when again in flood to pass off by some artificial channel, or at least prevent their course from being so uncontrolled and destructive. And so it is worth with Fortune, who displays her might where there is no organized strength to resist her, and directs her onset where she knows that there is neither barrier nor embankment to confine her."

By which Milton and Rose Friedman, a few centuries later, in their book "Free to Choose" further explained:

"The amount of each kind of resource each of us owns is partly the result of chance, partly of choice of ourselves or others. Chance determines our genes and through them affects our physical and mental capacities. Chance determines the kind of family and cultural environment into which we are born and as a result our opportunities to develop our physical and mental capacity. Chance determines also other resources we may inherit from our parents or other benefactors. Chance may destroy or enhance the resources we start with. But choice also plays an important role. Our decisions about how to use our resources, whether to work hard or to take it easy, to enter one occupation or another, to engage in one venture or another, to save or spend--these may determine whether we dissipate our resources or improve and add to them. Similar decisions, by our parents, by other benefactors, by millions of people who may have no direct connection with us will affect our inheritance."

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