Matthew Principle

Nov 22 / Network Capital
It is a theory of accumulation. According to the Matthew Principle, advantages as well as disadvantages get concentrated overtime. This makes it easier for the rich to get richer, the poor to get poorer and the smart to get smarter.

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As young children, most of us are told to read books. This advice is built on the premise that it is easier to build habits when young. The more you read as a child, the easier reading gets in general. In case of reading, the Matthew Principle works at two levels. First, it makes the practice of reading easy and fun. Second, it leads to aggregation of knowledge which makes understanding new concepts and ideas easier.

This term was coined by Robert K. Merton to describe how popular and well-known scientists tend to receive more attention and acclaim simply by the virtue of already being acclaimed, while scientists with lesser recognition, yet similar work, struggle to get acclaim.
At the collective level the Matthew Principle has crucial implications for our society. It shows how certain countries do well, because they have historically done well. Or how certain privileged sections of the society continue to accumulate wealth and entitlements, while the disadvantaged sections face newer forms of oppression. The only way to flip the Matthew Principle socially is to create new individual level advantages by building personal habits and practises that go on to disrupt societal trends. Social upward mobility through education is an important case in point.