Well, it seems the SWEET attention is on Hayek's merit v. results thread. Aaron already brought up one thought experiment: do the plants care how hard the farmer is trying?
Hayek tackles the inherited wealth and the clear advantage given to the children of rich parents. Last semester we discussed differential advantage relating to education (see http://uafsweet.blogspot.com/2010/11/myth-of-well-informed-parent.html). I wrote "If you give the same resources to different people you will have different results." I still hold this opinion. What's more, I think Hayek would agree. As I continue I do not imagine this will be the case.
If you gave the same people different resources you would have different results. For example, one cannot tutor their children if they work continually for food and shelter. Their love for their children may be TWO standard deviations above the median love and still the child may not learn to their potential. Yet the same parent with more money and free time can have their child tutored so effectively that mental pathways are markedly improved over the average. Thus wealth has obtained and surpassed the potential. This is simply a truth, evidenced by food stamp and low income daycare programs.
Hayek presents that the only modification to distribution of opportunity is by suppressing the advantage of one group. When was it decided that there is no alternative to this? Why assume equality means handicapping some people? Imagine a fast and a slow runner; the faster could be given weighted clothes or the slower could receive extra training. It seems to me that support in some situations would be beneficial to society with negligible impact on the success of those already well suited. Hayek implies that we must be coerced and lose our liberty to build a more equal society. Perhaps, but perhaps not...
-This is quite interesting, and I look forward to later chapters in greater depth on these questions.-
And now for something completely different
Hayek writes "there exists a curious contrast between the esteem most people possess for [family as an institution] and their disdain of the fact that being born into a particular family would confer on a person special advantages." I admit to this dichotomy in myself. I am reminded of a friend who refuses to discuss or acknowledge his trust fund. He hates thinking that he hasn't earned everything in his life, and worries that opinions of him would change if his trust was common knowledge. It's too bad; I know few men as deserving as him. He is probably right though. So, although his contribution to society is great, our cultural derision remains. Quite curious indeed.