When Does 80% Equal 50%?

Never mind that Vifredo Pareto has been vilified as the dude who influenced Mussolini to further develop fascism. Put that aside for a sec. Please.

The guy—Pareto, not Mussolini—came up with a cool power law probability: the Pareto distribution, which mathematically described the income distribution of various people from different countries.

He discovered that, generally speaking, 20% of the people—the “elite”—had (read: stole, purloined, looted, absconded with) 80% of the wealth.

This genius of mathematics (and accident of economics and politics) became known as the Pareto principle or 80-20 Rule. [In today’s Greatest Depression in the History of the World, the rule would become the “99.9-0.1 Rule,” but we’ll ignore that for the purposes of this discussion. Also because it doesn’t rock the soul like “80-20.”]

If you stretch your imagination a bit, those unfortunate 80-percenters could be seen as not doing their best, let alone whatever it takes (duh), to become a member of the so-called “elite” and, therefore, can be labeled “half-assers,” the qualitative equivalent of 50%, or doing a job only 50% of the way.

Hence, 80% = 50%.

Questions?

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Tripsy South is the author of the novel WTF, Dorkus! Schoolin’ My Shrink On Teen Suicide. Trained in physics at a cool surfer university, she lives and plays in Los Angeles where she’s a freelance writer and editor.