This week, EconTalk host Russ Roberts sat down with Cornell’s Robert Frank to discuss his new book, Success and Luck: Good Fortune and the Myth of Meritocracy. As in past episodes with Frank as a guest, it was a spirited conversation, with several good-natured points of disagreement.

So where do you stand? Is luck responsible for a larger share of our success than we’re willing to admit? Or is luck, as Branch Rickey said, merely “the residue of design” of the result of good old-fashioned effort?


1. After listening to this week’s episode, how much of a role has luck played in your life? To what extent have you underestimated the role of luck?
2. How does the analogy of headwinds and tailwinds explain people’s ability to perceive the role of luck or chance? Why does this asymmetry suggest people aren’t willing enough to contribute greater tax payments for social services? Explain.

3. What does Frank mean when he says, “it’s just a cognitive error to think that taxes are going to hurt as much as you think they will?” How convinced are you by this argument?

4. Frank suggests that Roberts’s “government bashing” serves only to contribute to the problem of ineffective or non-responsive government. To what extent do you agree, and why? How might Roberts’s effort be better spent?