There are no black and white answers.
If we could completely separate hard work from luck, it should be easier to tell who deserves what.
I think most would agree that lazy people should not be rewarded. I mean, if possible, they should be helped with basic survival needs such as food, but they should feel the need to work hard to get better standards of living. Just remember there’s no point in killing people to motivate them.
And I also think that, in most cases, really hard workers will be able to get a good life (financially), and lazy workers will not, in a big chunk of the world. I don’t really appreciate most complains about lack of opportunities because, often, the complainer could do way better by just working harder.
However, denying the role of luck is denying basic statistics. And it’s very easy to exemplify it. Is Zuckerberg the hardest young worker ever? Does he work harder than all of us combined? How about Paris Hilton? How about the queen?
Everybody has combinations of good and bad luck. There are probably some people above you in your company that are lazier than you are. There are probably some people below that work harder (even though that’s hard to admit).
However, I can’t see it as reasonable to deny the role of luck. Smart guys like Taleb and Buffet make pretty strong arguments about it. What if you were born in a small village in Sierra Leone and nobody ever told you that learning stuff is good? What if you want a buy side job but you’re finishing the CFA program in 2012 instead of 2006?
So, 9 out of 10 times or more, if someone comes to me and complains about lack of opportunities, I will probably give them a polite version of “don’t be so lazy”. However, I do realize that the invisible hand isn’t that smart after all - there are hard workers doing relatively bad and vice-versa. What bothers me the most is that, often, dishonest people can have an edge in many fields/countries.
Since it’s so hard to separate luck from effort, or even to identify crooks, solutions are very hard to come by. And since people like to fight about stuff, it’s very common to see them taking extreme positions trying to reinforce their points - environment aside, republicans and democrats would (or maybe do) agree with way more than it seems, but how can you win an election agreeing with the opponent?
Edit: Independent of his viewsm, CFAvsMBA sure knows how to keep the forum active.