A prominent argument against government intervention to social reform is that most people’s lot in life can be attributed to personal decisions rather than environmental factors. Although personal decisions do play an important factor, they do not fully account for the trajectory of one’s life. The conditions and opportunities around one play a significant part as well. Who’s to say that if we weren’t in the same situations, we wouldn’t follow the same path.
This brings to mind research on willpower. People who were better off in life, those who had money, those who were wealthy, those who were more educated, etc., had more willpower than their opposites. Research over the years, however, is beginning to tear down that old myth. What people are finding, is that in fact is that people who are often better off are not faced with the same temptations as, say, people of lower socioeconomic status who constantly encounter decision points. It’s entirely possible that they do have strong willpower, but it becomes exhausted quicker by having to exercise it more often, which eventually makes them more susceptible to giving in to the next temptation.
The main point being is that we, as a society, have historically placed too much onus on the individual rather than their environment for their placement in life. Our environment has much more of an influence on our trajectories in life than we realize. Many people have said this over the years, but their voices were ignored because they didn’t have empirical evidence to support their claims. Now, we’re finally starting to listen to them. When we’ll start to make changes is undetermined, though.
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