I have sat in an expensive, tastefully decorated board rooms, chatting with accomplished executives and recently I have been an employee of a warehouse, working a laborious job. The difference in these two domains of work is probably equal to the distance between two ends of the universe. These two experiences got me thinking about the inequalities in the world. On one side, a person earning more than average income can conveniently order products in one click, in his or her pajamas. On the other, a person has to walk for at least ten hours to fulfill that same order.
Don’t worry, this is not another sob story of inequality. In fact, I feel the opposite of sadness when it comes to inequality. I feel it is deserved. Before you conclude my personality, let me try and explain -
I came across the Pareto principle for the first time about five or six years back, when I was being trained for the Six Sigma problem-solving technique. I was trained to find the dominant cause for a certain problem and eliminate that to improve quality. For me, it was only a statistical technique, to achieve my short term goals and impressing my bosses.
The principle is simple - about 20% of the causes are responsible for 80% of the effects. The principle is most commonly applied to wealth distribution in the world. The distribution as it stands is considered highly unfair, as in the birthplace of the term inequality.
This principle is also applied to various industry sectors like sales, where most of your revenue comes from a small group of clients. Why are we okay to work with only a small number of clients to most of our revenues?
In sports, a few players’ performances are responsible for winning team games. The best example is a game of Cricket. The Indian cricket team used to win most of the games if its star player, Sachin Tendulkar performs well. In baseball, there is a stat called Wins Above Replacement (WAR), which shows a player’s contribution to the team. In a study by Jeff Zimmerman, WAR distribution shows that the top 15% of the players contributed to 85% of wins in the 2010 season.
This principle of inequality, as I would like to call it applies to almost every field. In language, few words account for most occurrences in any literature. In health care, a majority of the population is treated for a small number of diseases.I recently read a study that bird samplers put together at Brookhaven National Laboratory, that 80% of the birds account for only 20% of species.
The question has to be asked, why are we comfortable with some things to be unequally distributed and not comfortable with unequal distribution of wealth.
We even thank this unfair distribution in health, where only a small number of causes (like influenza) are responsible for health issues in the majority of the population. We are thankful that we have to find a cure for only fewer types of diseases.
We even appreciate the few top-performing athletes and shower them with our stranger love and portion of "unfairly" distributed wealth. We get excited to pay $200 for a ticket to top pop artist concert but we do not find it worth paying $10 for a local musician who can be equally entertaining.
I think, the power of opinion amongst us, humans, is the most dangerous one. The inequality which we have labeled as unfair is the result of this power. It was our positive opinion and our continuous demands about their products and services, that helped rich people to gather more wealth. We as a society, are collectively responsible for this unfair distribution of wealth and hence the power.
The only thing we can do is embrace this inequality and optimize our life according to the situations life throws at us.
“Inequality was the unalterable law of human life” - George Orwell