Michael Sandel
Professor, Harvard University

Luck of the Draw

October 29, 2020 | 42:17

Is success the luck of the draw? Tune in as Hugo speaks with Michael Sandel, a professor of political philosophy at Harvard University. Michael has authored several books, including What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of MarketsJustice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?, and most recently, The Tyranny of Merit: What’s Become of the Common Good?. Hugo and Michael discuss the impact of meritocracy and credentialism on society, investing, and politics.

Meet Our Moderator

Hugo Scott-Gall, Partner


00:41 Our host, Hugo Scott-Gall, introduces today’s guest, Michael Sandel.
01:39 Hugo asks Michael if he doesn’t like meritocracy in general, or if he just doesn’t like the attitude it engenders.
03:23 Hugo wonders if a sympathetic meritocracy could be developed, and points Michael to Nassim Taleb’s book, Fooled by Randomness.
05:57 How can one teach a fitting sense of luck and attitude of humility?
07:41 A look at the past four decades shows a rise in both hubris and inequality.
08:21 Hugo introduces the topic of talent, and he and Michael consider LeBron JamesWarren Buffett, and Charlie Munger.
12:18 The conversation turns to credentialism, which is “the last acceptable prejudice.”
16:02 Hugo asks about a challenge in the market for talent and about credentialism as a sorting mechanism.
17:29 Michael comments on the problem with current college admissions and explains his lottery idea.
20:16 There is a broader point standing behind Michael’s lottery suggestion, but he still expects a mixed reaction to the idea from his students.
23:27 Hugo brings up issues pertaining to jobs and work, and Michael speaks to the specific topics of technology and the dignity of work.
26:38 Michael shifts to discuss the relation of the current pandemic to work and workers.
28:47 Hugo turns the conversation to investing, and more particularly, to a rising focus on ESG.
30:51 Michael shares some misconceptions pertaining to the market.
34:12 What sort of politics will we get if we continue in the problematic trends of civic discourse at play now, and how much could this change in positive ways?
36:49 Michael clarifies that we need a moral turning.
38:03 Before concluding the conversation, Hugo asks if Michael has heard of Brunello Cucinelli.

Hugo Scott-Gall: Today I am delighted to have with me Michael Sandel. Michael teaches political philosophy at Harvard University. His books, What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets and Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do? were international best sellers and have been translated into 27 languages. Michael’s course, Justice, was the first Harvard course to be made freely available online and has been viewed by tens of millions of people.

His BBC series “The Public Philosopher” explores the philosophical ideas running behind the headlines with participants from around the world. In his newest book The Tyranny of Merit: What’s Become of the Common Good? Michael argues that to overcome the crises that are upending our world we must rethink the attitudes towards success and failure that have accompanied globalization and rising inequality. Michael. Thank you very much for joining me today.

Michael Sandel: Good to be with you, Hugo.

Hugo Scott-Gall: Great. Okay, so simple but provocative question. Is it that you don’t like meritocracy or you don’t like the attitudes that it engenders?

Michael Sandel: It’s hard to separate the two, Hugo. The meritocratic ideal is very attractive in many ways. It says, if only chances could be made equal, then the winners would deserve their winnings. And, when we think about merit in everyday life, we want well-qualified people to be assigned the social roles for which they’re qualified. If I need surgery to be performed on me, I want to find a well-qualified surgeon.

But, the attitudes that have come along with meritocracy, especially in recent decades, have brought out its dark side because even though chances aren’t truly equal, we have come to believe, those who’ve landed on top have come to believe, that their success is their own doing, the measure of their merit and that by implication those who’ve lost out must deserve their fate as well. And, this has led to hubris among the winners and it has generated resentment, even humiliation among the losers.

So, I suppose you could say it’s mainly the attitudes engendered by meritocracy that are its dark side, but the effect is that thinking in this way and organizing our politics in this way and our economy is corrosive of the common good, of the sense that we are all in this together.

Hugo Scott-Gall: So, could we have a more sympathetic meritocracy? Would that be consistent with a democratic society that can rub along quite well if it was more sympathetic or is it just in absolute terms, meritocracy sounds great, but actually isn’t the best way of organizing a society?

Michael Sandel: Whether we could have a more sympathetic meritocracy bias, I suppose what you’re suggesting, Hugo, is a society where we did assign jobs and social roles to those best able to perform them. But no invidious attitudes or distinctions arose as a result. That’s an interesting question to speculate about. It would depend, I suppose, on whether it went along with a culture of solidarity, the common good. But, whether it could or not, it’s hard to imagine because the belief that I deserve the benefits that flow from the exercise of my talent, that belief tends to make me forget the luck and good fortune that helped me on my way. There’s almost a built-in tendency, I suspect, to consider my success my own doing under a meritocracy.

And, so it’s very hard to stave off the sense of hubris that goes with it. If we could assign jobs and social roles based on qualifications, but at the same time preserve a certain kind of humility. An appreciation of the role of luck in life can prompt a certain humility. There but the accident of fortune or the grace of God go I. If we could somehow generate culturally that attitude towards success, then perhaps we could have a kind of meritocracy less prone to the hubris that afflicts it today.

Hugo Scott-Gall: When I read your book, I wondered whether you had read a book by Nassim Taleb called Fooled by Randomness. And, he’s sort-of making a similar argument to you, which is when a person’s successful they say, “Of course I was successful. I was always going to be successful because I’ve got lots of qualities and I’m a winner.” And, his argument is that they were all fooled by randomness. Things are far more random than we care to appreciate.

So, I’m kind of wondering how you teach luck and humility. And, certainly for us in our business, we’re investors and we think about success sometimes when we’ve had a good process that’s led to a good outcome. If you have a bad process that leads to a good outcome, that’s luck. But, it’s difficult in the moment of victory to be very honest and say, “Well, were we just lucky or actually was this an outcome that is proportionate to the work we put in and the process we followed?”

Michael Sandel: Yes. Well, I think it’s true. There is a powerful human tendency to be fooled by luck when we win, when we succeed and to be keenly alive to the role of luck when we don’t. And, in so far as that is a powerful tendency in the way we interpret our lives and our fate. I think meritocracy has a bent toward a kind of hubris, the hubris that comes from forgetting the role of luck and also forgetting our indebtedness. Our indebtedness for whatever talents and success we may have to family, teachers, coaches, neighborhood, community, country, the times in which we live.

So, our tendency to forget our good fortune and our indebtedness for our success, this is a pretty powerful tendency among the winners, among the successful especially in a society like ours where inequality of rewards has been deepening in recent decades. And, it’s interesting, Hugo that if we look over the past four decades when meritocratic sentiments, and I would say meritocratic hubris, had been intensifying, this is coincided with decades of growing inequality. It’s almost as if those who land on top feel a greater and greater need to justify their winnings, so to speak, by the idea that we deserve it, we’ve earned it, we’ve done it on our own.

Hugo Scott-Gall: Yeah. I want to explore that further a little bit later. Before we get there, I just want to talk to you about talent. Is the existence of talent maybe overstated? Is the ease of identifying talent overrated? How important a thing is talent? What is it and how should we measure it, or even should we measure it?

Michael Sandel: It’s interesting. Those who defend the idea that the winners deserve their winnings often point to very specialized forms of talent, virtuoso talent, the great violinist, the great athlete. But, relatively few, or put it this way, a relatively small proportion of the actual inequalities of income and wealth that we see today really are due to virtuoso talent on the part of those who flourish in the new economy. Even though we sometimes flatter ourselves, or the winners do, in thinking that, mostly it has to do with the way the economy is configured and with the particular talents and skills and contributions that our society happens to prize.

We can think about this more concretely, perhaps, by taking a case of athletic talent. Sitting here in the U.S. I’m thinking of LeBron James, the great basketball player whose team just won an NBA championship. Now, LeBron James is a very talented basketball player. He works hard to be sure to cultivate his talents. He practices hard, but so do lots of other basketball players and they’re not as good as LeBron or as successful or as highly paid. And, yet LeBron is favored by fortune in two ways. First, having the talents in the first place, but more than that LeBron is fortunate to live in a society that loves basketball and rewards it handsomely.

Had he lived back during the Renaissance they weren’t that interested in basketball back then. They cared more about fresco painters. So, this is another dimension of the contingency of who gets lavished with material rewards and who may struggle to get by that has little to do with talent as such. It has to do with what this society at this moment happens to prize and reward.

Hugo Scott-Gall: Well, Warren Buffett says if he had been born in the middle of Africa versus Nebraska, his life would have been very different, completely different. But he had the good fortune to be born when he was born, where he was born, in an environment where his talents could absolutely flourish. But, the reward of his talent was contingent on those things. It wasn’t an absolute talent that would have had the same outcome wherever he was born, whenever he was born. I think you’d be very sympathetic to that point.

Michael Sandel: I am. I think Warren Buffett has articulated this point quite powerfully and I think the point Warren Buffett makes is very much in line with the theme of the tyranny of merit.

Hugo Scott-Gall: There are many things you can learn from Buffett and probably equally many from his partner, Charlie Munger. One of the things he says is that he’s found in his working life that measurence of IQ is pretty difficult and he’s not so sure that when he’s thinking about investing in a company, he cares a lot about the integrity of the management, that he’s not sure that academic credentials are that powerful a predictor. In your book you have a chapter called around credentialism that describes the last acceptable prejudice, which is a very interesting way of describing it. And, it may even be more than that. It may be even heresy. And, the credentialism you think is a very powerful thing. So, could you explain kind of what you mean by credentialism and why you think it is the last acceptable prejudice?

Michael Sandel: Yes. In the meritocratic society we have, merit is measured in large part by the conferring of credentials, which typically means attending university, getting an advanced degree. In fact, stepping back and looking at public discourse the way politicians and political parties have responded to the growing inequality of recent decades has not been to take on that inequality directly, trying to reconfigure the structural inequalities in the economy, but to offer something else, to offer a kind of a meritocratic promise of individual upward mobility.

Politicians, and one sees this in the U.S., in Britain, and elsewhere, have said, “If you want to compete and win in the global economy, go to college. What you earn will depend on what you learn. You can make it if you try.” So, what they are saying in effect to a great many workers whose wages have been stagnant for four decades is, “Well, if you get yourself a better education, if you get credentialed, then maybe you too will be able to rise and to flourish.” Now, in one way this rhetoric of rising, as I call it in the book, is inspiring. Of course, people should be able to rise as far as their efforts and talents will take them regardless of background. That’s inspiring.

But, it’s also very limited, Hugo, as a way of responding to the inequality and wage stagnation that a great many workers have experienced in recent decades. And, not only that, it leads to a kind of credentialism in which those that do achieve university degrees tend to look down on those who haven’t because it’s almost as if they say to themselves, “They could have gone to college. They could have gone to university, but they didn’t and so a great many of them struggle.” This is especially invidious when we remember that most people don’t have a four-year university degree. Nearly two-thirds do not. The figure is similar in Britain and most European countries.

So, I think it’s folly to create an economy that creates as a necessary condition for dignified work and a decent life a university degree and yet it reinforces the credentialism, the sense that those who haven’t been to college must have failed to exercise the proper initiative. And, I think that if you look at the populous backlash against elites in recent years, especially in 2016, it has a lot to do with the sense among many working people that elites look down on them. This is what I mean by the heavy hand of credentialism. Credentialism is the last acceptable prejudice.

Hugo Scott-Gall: And, do you think there’s a challenge in the market for talent and it’s quite asymmetric if you’re an employer trying to work out who has the talents and skills and abilities, characteristics, required for the job you’re seeking to fill. It’s imperfect information. So, is it that the credentialist system is the least bad sorting mechanism? And, so do we need better sorting mechanisms?

And, that could come from one day maybe a sort of super piece of artificial intelligence is much better to assess human abilities or is it, and this gets on to your idea of the lottery for … slightly stretching the point now, but for admissions into heavily oversubscribed universities like your own where there are thousands and thousands of people with a hair’s breadth between them in terms of ability and achievements and pristine resumes. Do you think about sorting differently in that credentialism was maybe the least bad, but still a long way from being optimal?

Michael Sandel: I think we do need different sorting mechanisms less tied to credentialism of the kind we have today, which is not very predictive. It’s also high skewed by class background. In the first instance, if we’re thinking about admission of students to highly selective colleges and universities, there’s an excessive reliance I think on standardized tests, the SAT in the U.S. as it’s called, which is essentially a kind of IQ test or that’s at least how it was originally conceived. But, in practice it tracks family income very, very closely. And, so I think that for admission we should certainly rely less on that test.

But, I go further in the book and offer what may be a suggestion that will get me into trouble in my neighborhood, which is that here to be concrete, Harvard and Stanford get more than 40,000 applicants each year for 2,000 places in the freshman class. And, the admissions officers tell us that most of them are well-qualified, could flourish at these places, could do the work and do it well. So, what I propose in the book is that the admissions office culls out those who are not well qualified and then with the group left, whether it be 20,000, 25,000 perhaps, do a lottery for a couple of reasons.

First, it’s not really possible to make the fine-grain judgments and predictions of an 18-year-old applicant as to who will have the greatest impact for the good on the economy, on the society, on politics, on science. Perhaps one can do this with a small handful of math prodigies, predict who will become a great mathematician. But, otherwise it’s pretty hard to judge 18-year-olds. I offer an example from the world of sports. The greatest quarterback in football history in the U.S., Tom Brady, who played for the New England Patriots, until just recently. When he was 18 years old and he was drafted, he was the 199th draft pick.

So, if it’s impossible to predict with any certainty at age 18 so narrowly circumscribed a skill as the ability to throw a football, how much more difficult is it to predict at age 18 who will really make a substantial impact whether in the world of academia or business or politics or law. I think we’re fooling ourselves. But, there’s a broader point, which is by admitting students through a lottery of the qualified, if we can call it that, it would be a way of calling into question among students and among their parents who have been pressuring them for great many years to compete for meritocratic credentials.

A way of reinforcing the role of luck, of sending the message about how much in the selection process is the result of luck and maybe that would tap down to some degree the meritocratic hubris. By extension in business, I think that many times academic credentials are used as a sorting mechanism even though those academic credentials are not very closely related to the actual job that the person will perform. So, I think we should move away from that. Though, I would not put great reliance on artificial intelligence as a way of doing the sorting. I would rather have more broadly-based forms of judgment that are attuned to the kinds of roles that the employee will perform.

Hugo Scott-Gall: Tell me, when you are teaching your class at Harvard if you also run for a show of hands which system they prefer for admission, the current one or move to a lottery? A.) Have you done it and what was the result, or B.) If you haven’t done it, what would you predict the result would be?

Michael Sandel: I’ve not done it yet because the book only just came out and I hadn’t thought to propose this until now. But, I will try it and perhaps I’ll let you know, Hugo, what the result is. But, here’s what I would predict. I predict there will be divided opinion.

Hugo Scott-Gall: Yeah.

Michael Sandel: Because, I think that a great many students, having gone through this stress strewn meritocratic gauntlet of pressure through their high school years have come to believe or not to believe that their effort is what led to their success in winning admission. That meritocratic tournament almost enforces the belief. This connects with something we were discussing earlier. Almost enforces a kind of forgetfulness of the role of luck and fortune and indebtedness.

So, the idea that effort accounts for having won admission to a selective university is hard to avoid and yet I think some students will on reflection recognize the role of luck and the role of life advantages that have enabled them to win admission. So, my guess is, it will be a split vote, Hugo, but I’ll let you know.

Hugo Scott-Gall: So, I was gonna ask you next really around jobs and two aspects to jobs and dignity around work. One of which is around the risk of automation and technology eating further into the number of jobs that can be done by humans versus machines and does that lead to a shortage of quality jobs? And, the second around COVID and what you may have learned from the sort of pandemic. So, if we just start by giving dignity back to certain jobs, but then at the same time the threat to the jobs posed by the march of technology and automation in particular.

Michael Sandel: Yes. It is certainly the case that technology is transforming the workplace and the fear is that technology is coming for a great many jobs including some relatively skilled jobs. But, I think that we should not mistakenly assume that the direction of technology is fixed, an external factor outside of human influence or direction or a control. To a large extent we can, by we I mean society generally, can direct the course of technology by deciding what innovations are worth investing in. And, I think one of the guiding principles in deciding what technologies to invest in should be with an eye to the dignity of work.

First of all, technology will not so much replace jobs as supplement them in various ways making some jobs more productive, others less so or perhaps even some jobs unnecessary. So, I think we should consider this to be a public question open to public discussion and debate. How can we through our investments encourage those forms of technological innovation that make work, existing jobs, more productive? And, this I think can go some way toward enabling technology to contribute to the dignity of work rather than drive it out.

I think it’s important that the alternative to focusing single mindedly on equipping people for a meritocratic competition, it’s a different kind of political project and that should focus on the dignity of work. What does the dignity of work require and part of it requires investing in those forms of technological innovation that make workers more productive and therefore enhance the demand for their skills and their wage levels in the market.

Now, as for the pandemic. The pandemic has been revealing with regard to work and this question of the dignity of work because it’s brought home to all of us, but especially those who have the luxury of working remotely, how deeply we depend on workers we often overlook. I’m thinking not only of the hospital workers who are caring for COVID patients, but for delivery workers, warehouse workers, grocery store clerks, home healthcare providers, truckers. These are not the best or most honored persons in our society and yet now we are recognizing them as essential workers, as key workers.

This could be the beginning, an opening perhaps, of a broader public debate about the dignity of work, about what counts as essential work, and a debate about how to bring into better alignment pay and social recognition with the importance of the jobs that we now regard as essential. Whether we will really have such a debate is very much up to us. It’s an open question, but I think this awareness, Hugo, I could prompt a debate about the dignity of work and how better to reward it.

Hugo Scott-Gall: It certainly feels that positives to come out of this pandemic are few and far between, but that does feel like one of them with a heavy caveat so far and there has certainly been a recessing of appreciation around the kind of jobs you just described. And, in some cases there may well be a change in the actual financial reward as well, whether that will still be the case if there’s the all clear in two, three years time and we’ve moved on, I don’t know. I guess that may be my final question to you in a minute around kind of causes for optimism around this whole issue.

But, if I could just briefly talk a little bit about ESG, environmental, social, and governance, which is an increasingly big thing in the investment world and I think something you could argue is shifting. If you go back to the day of Milton Friedman, he says, “The purpose of the company is to generate a profit for a shareholder and that’s it.” We’re seeing now that actually the purpose of a company, part of its existence is the social license to operate. There is a shift in attitudes between, is this a good company, does it do good? How it does what it does, is that good? Is there a broader ecosystem?

Those questions are increasing and will only increase we think from here. So, this notion around actually what is doing good and maximize profit, that’s quite a shift already. So, I was wondering, observing this growing trend in investing, so how people are investing, the kind of companies they’re investing in as they test them against how do they score on these key areas, environmental, social, and governance. Is that something as an observer you can see as a force for good and a positive change? Is that something you kind of take an interest in and does it make sense to you?

Michael Sandel: Yes. Yes, on all counts, Hugo. I think it is a very hopeful and important step for investors to be increasingly aware of the environmental and social impact of the companies in which they invest. For decades now we’ve lived by Milton Friedman’s picture, this very narrow picture of how corporations serve the common good, but it’s too narrow. It misses the social license. It misses the broader social purpose of corporations and for that matter of a capitalist economy. One of the mistakes we’ve made under the shadow of this very narrow conception of maximizing shareholder value as the sole purpose of a company, there’s a narrow assumption of an even more fateful kind.

We slide into the assumption that the money people make is the measure of their contribution to the common good. This is part of the problem that we’ve been discussing with the meritocracy that we have bought in to. And, what this does is to outsource our moral judgment about what the common good really is to markets. And, we do this as almost out of a certain kind of moral and civic laziness. We realize that to debate for ourselves what counts as contributing to the common good whether for an individual or for a company, but that can be controversial. People can have different views about what actions by a company or an individual really do contribute value to the economy and the common good.

But, I think this is the discussion that we need to have. The alternative is to outsource this judgment, which is a moral and civic judgment, to markets. But, markets can’t answer these questions for us. And, so I think when investors take on thoughtfully and deliberately the question of what companies really are contributing value to the common good? Their role on the environment, the way they treat their workers, their impact on the communities they serve.

These are the questions I think that we should be asking as investors and also as democratic citizens. We need to take back the question of the common good and put it right at the center of our deliberation, of our decision making, whether as investors or as citizens. So, this I see, Hugo, as a very hopeful sign.

Hugo Scott-Gall: I would agree with you. I’ve been in this industry quite a long time and things are changing and they really are different from even five years ago. And, I think this will only increase from here and there will be more scrutiny. And, I think also the scrutiny will be less sort of outsourced. As you say it’s outsourced to markets, I would even say outsourced to credentialed experts to give their view. I think more and more investors will have to decide, okay, what are my beliefs and values? And, that will inform how I invest and what I reject as well when it comes to investing.

So, actually I do think there is really quite positive change here and pricing the allocation of capital is a way, not the way, is a way of change. So, I think there is a quite a lot happening here, which gives cause for optimism. Certainly, gives cause for optimism around your argument. So, I guess we’ve talked around income and equality. We’ve talked around some of the political effects of meritocracy. What sort of politics do you think we’re going to get if we carry on unchecked on the path we’re on in terms of sort of civic debate and what sort of politics could we have given the world we’re in if we were to adopt some of your ideas, how much could that change maybe political outcomes, but certainly the discourse, the debate, the process?

Michael Sandel: I think one of the most dispiriting and dangerous aspects of civic life today is the impoverished state of public discourse. What passed for public discourse these days consists either of narrow managerial technocratic talk, which inspires no one. Or, where passion does enter we have shouting matches where partisans shout past one another without really listening. I think this empty public discourse is what so many people find frustrating about politics today. And, we’re also struggling with the result of a kind of authoritarian populous backlash against elites looking down on working people.

So, it seems to me that the hope for a better kind of public discourse depends on a couple of things. One of them is to bring ethical arguments more directly into our civic debate. We should not outsource our moral judgments, our debates about what counts as the common good. We should not outsource them either to markets or to technocratic elites. They can’t decide these questions for us, and by us I mean democratic citizens.

So, we need a morally more robust kind of public discourse than we have today. One that addresses questions of values head on. Not because we’ll agree about all of those values, but because we may learn something about one another and may heal the rancor in the polarization that afflicts our public life. Beyond that, and this goes back to the debilitating effects, the dark side of meritocracy. Hugo, I think that we need a kind of moral turning, reconsidering the meaning of success, questioning our meritocratic hubris. Because, insisting that my success is my due makes it hard to see myself in other people’s shoes.

And, appreciating the role of luck in life, the sense into which I’m indebted, can prompt a certain humility there, but for the accident of birth or the luck of the draw go I. And, this spirit of humility I think is one of the civic virtues we need now. It can be the beginning of the way back from the harsh ethic of success that drives us apart. It can point perhaps beyond the tyranny of merit toward a less rancorous, more generous public life.

Hugo Scott-Gall: Michael, that was a great way to finish. Thank you for all of your answers, but in particular thank you for setting out your vision so clearly. It was great. I really enjoyed our conversation. I got a lot from it. So, to thank you again I’m going to give a plug for a previous podcast we’ve done. Have you ever heard of gentleman called Bunello Cucinelli?

Michael Sandel: I haven’t.

Hugo Scott-Gall: He is self-made Italian. Not self-made Italian, but self-made billionaire. He’s Italian. But, he preaches humanistic capitalism. So, his big thing is, “I want to make a fair profit. I don’t have to have the highest margins in my industry. What I care about is making a fair profit so I’m selling a product customers like and are happy to pay the price, but I want to treat my suppliers well. I want to treat my employees well.”

We went to visit him. He’s paid for a whole village in Italy to be renovated and rebuilt and it’s beautiful. We saw his head office. And, the best room, the best space in the office is dedicated to the guys that work in the mailroom because he says, “They have probably the worst job in the building, so I’m going to give them the best view.” He’s an interesting guy and I think you would, just to be aware of him, I think you would find him interesting because he is preaching something different. He talks like dignator and dignity a lot. And, it’s very, very important to him that he treats his employees with dignity. No one can receive an email after 5:00 p.m.

But, he said, “You can talk to anyone I do business with and you’ll find I’m incredibly consistent and this is my thing. This is my thing, which is I want to make a fair profit, but I want to do it in a humanisticly excellent way.” And, that’s kind of his life mission. So, I thought he might be (if you never heard of him, he sells very expensive cashmere, so I can understand why you wouldn’t) but an interesting person for you just to sort of be aware of.

Michael Sandel: Yes. Thank you so much for that. I’ll definitely look him up. I would like to learn more about him. And, more broadly, the outlook that you’re describing in the initiatives within investment to take greater account of these humane and civic considerations I think is a very encouraging and important development. So, I wish you well with this and I’ve so enjoyed this conversation, Hugo.

Hugo Scott-Gall: Well, that’s very kind of you to say. But, I’m sure you’re doing an awful lot of these at the moment. I really enjoyed it. I really enjoyed your book. I think it’s broad and different and most importantly I think it’s right. So, thank you for giving us the time. I’m optimistic on what we talked about around ESG investing and I’m optimistic around the fact that you’re talking around this means the chances of things changing goes up not down.

Michael Sandel: Well, thank you, Hugo. Thank you so much.

Meet Our Moderator

Hugo Scott-Gall, Partner

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  • “SC_Analytics_Global_Cookie”: this persistent cookie identifies repeat visits from a single user. The cookie expires one year after the last page was requested.
  • “SC_Analytics_Session_Cookie”: this cookie is used to collect anonymised information about how visitors use the site, including the number of visitors, where visitors have come from before coming to the site and the pages they visit on the site. The cookie expires one year after the last page was requested.

Analytics Cookies
There are also certain unique cookies and/or third-party cookies that we may use for analytics purposes to enhance the performance of our website. These cookies may track and provide trend analysis on how our users interact with our website, or help us to track errors. The data collected will generally be aggregated to provide trends and usage patterns for business analysis, site/platform improvement and performance metrics. The type of information we collect includes how many visitors visit our website, when they visited, for how long and which areas of our website are visited and which services are used. While this analysis may be performed by third parties, only William Blair will review the analytics. Your use of our website indicates your consent to the use of these web analytics cookies. One of these third party analytic tools used is a web analytics service provided by Google. Google Analytics is one of the most widespread and trusted analytics solutions on the web for helping us to understand how you use the site and ways that we can improve your experience. Google Analytics uses cookies to help analyze how visitors use the William Blair & Company website. Four types of cookies are used by Google Analytics:

  • __utma Cookie A persistent cookie – remains on a computer, unless it expires or the cookie cache is cleared. It tracks visitors. Metrics associated with the Google __utma cookie include: first visit (unique visit), last visit (returning visit). This also includes Days and Visits to purchase calculations which afford ecommerce websites with data intelligence around purchasing sales funnels.
  • __utmb Cookie & __utmc Cookie These cookies work in tandem to calculate visit length. Google __utmb cookie demarks the exact arrival time, then Google __utmc registers the precise exit time of the user. Because __utmb counts entrance visits, it is a session cookie, and expires at the end of the session, e.g. when the user leaves the page. A timestamp of 30 minutes must pass before Google cookie __utmc expires. Given__utmc cannot tell if a browser or website session ends. Therefore, if no new page view is recorded in 30 minutes the cookie is expired.
  • __utmz Cookie Cookie __utmz monitors the HTTP Referrer and notes where a visitor arrived from, with the referrer siloed into type (Search engine (organic or cost per click), direct, social and unaccounted). From the HTTP Referrer the __utmz Cookie also registers, what keyword generated the visit plus geolocation data. This cookie lasts six months.
  • __utmv Cookie Google __utmv Cookie lasts “forever”. It is a persistent cookie. It is used for segmentation, data experimentation and the __utmv works hand in hand with the __utmz cookie to improve cookie targeting capabilities.

For further details on Google analytics cookies, visit cookies set by Google Analytics.

Targeting Cookies
William Blair may utilize a select set of cookies provided by third parties, such as Like and Share buttons. These cookies store non-personally identifiable information, but may store information that is available to third-party advertisers, publishers, or ad networks.

Managing Cookies
Most browsers are initially set to accept cookies. However, you have the ability to disable cookies if you wish, generally through changing your internet software browsing settings. It may also be possible to configure your browser settings to enable acceptance of specific cookies or to notify you each time a new cookie is about to be stored on your computer permitting you to decide whether to accept or reject the cookie. To manage your use of cookies, there are various resources available to you. For example the “Help” section on your browser may assist you. As our cookies allow you to access some of our website’s essential features, we recommend that you leave cookies enabled. Disabling cookies may mean that you experience reduced functionality or will be prevented from using our site altogether.

Additional Resources



William Blair & Company Privacy and Security Policy

Social Media Disclaimer

William Blair & Company, L.L.C. is a broker dealer and investment adviser dually registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”). William Blair, along with affiliated entities William Blair Investment Management, LLC and William Blair International, Ltd (collectively, “William Blair”) sponsors and publishes posts on or through pages, profiles, accounts, feeds, channels or other portions of various social media platforms, including but not limited to YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter (each, a “Site”) for educational, promotional or other business reasons.

About William Blair Posts

No William Blair post published on any social media platform is an offer to sell or a solicitation of an offer to buy shares of any William Blair investment product to any person in any jurisdiction in which an offer, solicitation, purchase or sale would be unlawful under the laws of such jurisdiction. Additionally, all William Blair posts published on any social media platform are for informational purposes only and should not be considered as investment advice or recommendations to invest in any particular security, strategy or investment product.

William Blair posts on social media may include statements concerning financial market trends, and are based on current market conditions, which will fluctuate and may be superseded by subsequent market events or for other reasons. Historic market trends are not reliable indicators of actual future market behavior or future performance of any particular investment which may differ materially, and should not be relied upon as such. The investment strategies and broad themes discussed in William Blair’s social media posts may be unsuitable for investors depending on their specific investment objectives and financial situation. Information contained in posts has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but not guaranteed. You should note that the materials on the social media platforms are provided “as is” without any express or implied warranties. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results. All investments involve a degree of risk, including the risk of loss. No part of William Blair posts may be altered without express written permission from William Blair.

William Blair posts may provide links to third party websites only as a convenience and the inclusion of such links does not imply any endorsement, approval, investigation, verification or monitoring by William Blair of any content or information contained within or accessible from the linked sites. While we make every attempt to provide links only to those websites we think are trustworthy and accurate, we cannot be responsible for the content or accuracy of the information presented on those websites and we specifically disclaim any liability for any loss or damages which you may incur, directly or indirectly, as a result of your use of them. We reserve the right to terminate a link to a third party website at any time.

General User Guidelines

Due to the highly regulated nature of our industry and as a matter of policy, William Blair, in some instances, may not reply to user comments. Please ensure that your contributions in relation to any William Blair posts are relevant and topical. Do not publish your own advertisements of any kind on any William Blair social media page or with respect to any William Blair posts. We ask you to be respectful and courteous and refrain from publishing, including through hyper-links, inappropriate or offensive material on any William Blair social media page. Do not attempt to promote investments (this includes posting testimonials, giving investment advice, or making recommendations about specific securities, securities strategies, products or services) on any William Blair social media page. Do not attempt to submit to William Blair any personal, confidential or account information through any William Blair social media page. William Blair is not subject to any obligations of confidentiality regarding information submitted to them through any William Blair social media page or otherwise through any social media platform.

Third-Party Posts on any William Blair Social Media Page

While William Blair may monitor third-party posts published on any William Blair social media page, such posts may be reviewed to ensure regulatory compliance, but otherwise are not edited before being displayed. Third-party posts on any William Blair social media page are the view and responsibility of the third-party, not William Blair. William Blair cannot guarantee the appropriateness, accuracy or usefulness of any third-party posts or of any third-party hyper-link, nor are they responsible for any unauthorized or copyrighted materials contributed by a third-party in any William Blair social media page. William Blair reserves the right to remove or edit any third-party posts or comments on any William Blair social media page that are inappropriate or that violate (or may violate) applicable regulations.

William Blair does not publish or otherwise disseminate statements relating to current or former clients’ positive experiences with or endorsements of William Blair and expects you to refrain from publishing such posts on any William Blair social media page. You should limit your posts on any William Blair social media page to investment themes rather than commenting, positively or negatively, on William Blair, its products, services or personnel. Although our clients may follow this account, this should not be interpreted as a testimonial regarding any client’s experience with our firm.

Any descriptions of, references to, or links to other products, publications or services do not constitute an endorsement, authorization, sponsorship by, or affiliation with William Blair with respect to any hyper-linked site or its sponsor, unless expressly stated by William Blair. William Blair expressly disclaims any responsibility for the posts, the accuracy of the information, and/or quality of products or services provided by or advertised on these third-party sites, as posted by third-parties on any William Blair Social media page.

Use Social Media Platforms at Your Own Risk

William Blair is in no way affiliated with any social media platform and has no responsibility for any social media page’s operations and services. William Blair and their respective affiliates, directors, officers, or employees are not liable for any direct, indirect, incidental, consequential, punitive or special damages arising out of or in any way connected with your access or use of, or inability to access or use, a social media platform, any William Blair social media page thereon or reliance on any William Blair post or any failure of performance, interruption, defect, delay in transmission, computer viruses or other harmful components, or line or system failure associated with a social media platform or any William Blair social media page thereon. Use of a social media platform or any William Blair social media page thereon is at your own risk.

Privacy Policy

William Blair is not responsible for the terms of use or privacy policies of any social media platform on which William Blair posts may appear, including in any William Blair social media page. For additional information regarding account security and privacy, refer to our Privacy and Security statement

Copyrights and Trademarks

Each social media page’s content and information, and all trademarks, service marks, trade names, trade dress, logos, copyrights and other intellectual property displayed on the Site by William Blair (“Content”) are protected by U.S. and worldwide copyright and trademark laws and treaty provisions, and are owned by, controlled by or licensed to William Blair or their respective owners. By using any social media page, we do not grant you any rights to reproduce, sell, or license any of the content contained herein, except that you may print a copy of the information contained herein for your personal use only. You may not reproduce or distribute the text or graphics to others or copy all or substantially all of the content to your own hard drive or server without the prior written permission of William Blair.

Permitted Uses of Our Sites and Content

We have listed below the permitted uses of our Content. We reserve the right to change our permitted uses at any time.

  • William Blair grants you a limited, revocable, nonexclusive and nontransferable right to view, store, bookmark, download, copy and print pages from the Site for your personal and noncommercial use only. Unless you receive our permission in advance, you may not exploit any of the Content commercially or forward it as a mass distribution.
  • If you link other websites to any Site, you may not imply or suggest that William Blair has endorsed or is affiliated with such websites and you may not display this Site as “framed” within another website.

Prohibited Uses of Our Sites and Content

William Blair does not grant, by implication, estoppel or otherwise, any license or right to use Content on any social media page other than those set forth above, and you shall not make any other use of such Content without William Blair’s written permission. Without limiting the generality of the foregoing:

  • You agree not to copy large portions of any social media page (such as by bots, robots or spiders that “harvest” the Site), interfere with the functioning of the Site or restrict or inhibit any others from using the Site.
  • If you download any pages from any social media page, you agree that you will not remove or obscure any copyright or other notices or legends contained in any such Content. You may not alter or modify the Content in your copies.
  • You may not (and may not encourage or assist others to) violate any law, regulation, rule or the intellectual property or contractual rights of others, or attempt to violate the security of any social media page or use or gain access to the identities, information or computers of others through any social media page.
  • You may not transmit any virus, worm, time bomb or similar system interference or corruptant through any social media page.

William Blair has the right (but not the obligation) to monitor any social media page for unauthorized or objectionable conduct and to take all appropriate actions in response, without notice to you. We reserve the right to change or supplement our website policies at any time to the fullest extent permitted by applicable law.

Forward-Looking Statements

Statements made on any social media page that look forward in time involve risks and uncertainties and are forward-looking statements. Such risks and uncertainties include, without limitation, the adverse effect from a decline in the securities markets or a decline in William Blair’s products’ performance, a general downturn in the economy, competition from other companies, changes in government policy or regulation, inability of William Blair to attract or retain key employees, unforeseen costs and other effects related to legal proceedings or investigations of governmental and self-regulatory organizations.

Forward-looking statements reflect our current views with respect to, among other things, the operations and performance of our businesses. You can identify these forward-looking statements by the use of words such as “outlook,” “believe,” “expect,” “potential,” “continue,” “may,” “should,” “seek,” “approximately,” “predict,” “intend,” “will,” “plan,” “estimate,” “anticipate” or the negative version of these words or other comparable words. Forward-looking statements are subject to various risks and uncertainties. Accordingly, there are or will be important factors that could cause actual outcomes or results to differ materially from those indicated in these statements. We undertake no obligation to publicly update or review any forward-looking statement, whether as a result of new information, future developments or otherwise.

International Use

The Content provided in or accessible through any social media page is not intended for distribution to, or use by, any person or entity in any jurisdiction or country where such distribution or use would be contrary to law or regulation or which would subject William Blair to any registration or other requirement within such jurisdiction or country. William Blair reserves the right to limit access to the Site to any person, geographic region or jurisdiction. Unless otherwise expressly set forth herein, William Blair makes no representations that transactions, products or services discussed on or accessible through the Site are available or appropriate for sale or use in all jurisdictions or by all users, or that access by any user in the place it is located is not illegal or prohibited. Users who choose to access the Site from other locations do so on their own initiative and are responsible for establishing the legality, usability and correctness of any information or Content on the Site under the laws of any applicable jurisdictions. You may not use or export the Content on the Site or accessible through the Site in violation of applicable laws and regulations.

Transmission to and From any Social Media Page

Subject to any applicable terms and conditions set forth in our Privacy and Security Statement, any communication or other material that you send to us through the Internet or post on any social media page by electronic mail or otherwise, is and will be deemed to be non-confidential as between you and us and William Blair shall have no obligation of any kind with respect to such information. William Blair will be free to use, for any purpose, and without compensation due or payable to you, any ideas, concepts, know-how or techniques provided by you to William Blair through any social media page.

Disclaimer and Indemnity

William Blair and its affiliates disclaim, to the fullest extent permitted by law, all express and implied warranties of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, and non-infringement. If you live in a state that does not allow disclaimers of implied warranties, our disclaimer may not apply to you.

William Blair does not warrant that the information in any social media page is accurate, reliable or correct, that any social media page will be available at any particular time or location, or that any social media page is free of viruses or other harmful components. Electronic communications can be intercepted by third parties and, accordingly, electronic mail and other transmissions to and from any social media page or made via any social media page may not be secure.

The investments and strategies discussed in the content may not be suitable for all investors and are not obligations of William Blair or any of its affiliates or guaranteed by William Blair or any of its affiliates. The investments are not bank deposits and are not insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation or any other entity and are subject to investment risks, including the loss of the principal amount invested. Nothing contained on the Site constitutes investment, legal, tax or other advice nor is to be relied on in making an investment or other decision. You should obtain and carefully review any applicable prospectus, statement of additional information and/or offering memorandum as well the William Blair Form ADV, as applicable, before making any investment decision. Decisions based on information or materials contained on any social media page are the sole responsibility of the user.

As consideration for access to any social media page, you agree to indemnify and hold harmless William Blair and their employees, contractors, affiliates, officers and directors from and against any claims whatsoever and of any nature for damages, losses and causes of action, including but not limited to actions by third parties against you, William Blair or any of its Related Person, arising out of or in connection with any decisions that you make based on such Content, your use of any social media page, or your violation of our website policies. You agree to make William Blair, whole for any and all claims, losses, liabilities, and expenses (including attorneys’ fees) arising from your use of the Site or any violation of this the policies laid out in this Disclaimer, unless prohibited by law.

Miscellaneous Provisions

YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and any other social media sites are public sites. William Blair is in no way affiliated with them and has no responsibility for their operations and services or for related service sites. William Blair is not responsible for any social media platform’s terms of use or privacy or security policies, or any other third party sites that may be linked to by a social media platform. By using a social media platform, you accept at your own risk that the Internet and online communications medium may not perform as intended despite the efforts of William Blair, your Internet Service Provider, and you.

For additional information regarding account security and privacy, refer to our Privacy and Security statement. For customer service inquiries or questions about your accounts, please visit our website at: www.williamblair.com.

Your Acceptance of these Terms

Your use of the Site constitutes your acceptance of the terms contained herein. You may reject these terms by leaving the Site at any time.

For additional information about William Blair or to contact us, please visit our website at: www.williamblair.com.


The Bloomberg Barclays U.S. Aggregate Bond Index is a broad-based benchmark that measures the investment grade, U.S. dollar-denominated, fixed-rate taxable bond market, including Treasuries, government-related and corporate securities, mortgage-backed securities (agency fixed-rate and hybrid ARM pass-throughs), asset-backed securities, and commercial mortgage backed securities.

The MSCI ACWI IMI Index is a free float-adjusted, market capitalization-weighted index that captures large, mid, and small cap representation across developed and emerging markets.

The MSCI ACWI ex-US IMI Index is a free float-adjusted, market capitalization-weighted index that captures large, mid, and small cap representation across developed and emerging markets, excluding the U.S. The Value and Growth Indices are a subset of the Index that adopt a framework for style segmentation in which value and growth securities are characterized using different attributes. Multiple factors are used to identify value and growth characteristics.

The MSCI ACWI Small Cap Index is a free float-adjusted, market capitalization-weighted index that captures small cap representation across developed and emerging markets.

The MSCI Emerging Markets Index is a free float-adjusted, market capitalization-weighted index that is designed to measure the equity market performance of emerging markets.

The MSCI World Index is a free float-adjusted, market capitalization-weighted index that is designed to measure the equity market performance of developed markets.

The Russell 2000 Index is a market capitalization-weighted index designed to represent the small cap segment of the U.S. equity universe.

Index performance is for illustrative purposes only. The indices are unmanaged, do not incur fees or expenses, and cannot be invested in directly.

Alpha is a measure of an investment's return in excess of the market's return, after both have been adjusted for risk.

Beta is a measure of the volatility of an investment relative to the overall market, represented by a comparable benchmark.

Half-life is a statistical measure of the time required for the discrepancy between price and value to contract by half of its starting value. Fundamental value estimates are based on the Dynamic Allocation Strategies team's proprietary research.

P/E Ratio is a measure of valuation which compares share price to earnings per share, calculated using estimates for the next twelve months.

Standard deviation is a statistical measurement of variations from the average.

The William Blair Earnings Trend Model captures information about short- and medium-term changes in analyst estimates in an attempt to anticipate future estimate changes and stock performance. The score combines measurements of earnings revisions, momentum, and earnings surprise.

The William Blair Valuation Model combines varying metrics used to characterize the relationship between the stock’s trading price and its intrinsic value. By going beyond using only one or two measures, the model attempts to build a more holistic version of a stock’s worth vis-a-vis the market. The score combines measurements of earnings/cash flow based, asset-based, and model-based factors.