The rule of thirds versus the Pareto principle

In response to my post the other day bemoaning the various afflictions under which our global society labours (‘It is what it is‘), msjadeli commented:

My mind theoretically would like to believe the change that is needed to save our species and planet is possible. In vivo, perceiving directly, there is no effin way it will end well. Humans do what humans do. In the law of thirds (1/3 will continue destruction no matter what, 1/3 will do the right thing, and 1/3 may be convinced to do the right thing) you are betting heavily that the 1/3 who will do the right thing will put steps in place to convince that middle 1/3. I see little evidence that this is happening. The big question is: can 1/3 of humans save the planet when 2/3 more or less are working actively or passively to destroy it?

My initial response to that was to feel deflated and demoralised.

However, it got me thinking. I looked up the ‘rule of thirds‘, — and found that it appears to relate primarily to the composition of visual images, which clearly isn’t particularly relevant to the problem of how to change the course of our self-destructive society.

This reminded me of the ’80-20 rule’, otherwise known as the ‘Pareto principle‘. This principle is named after the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, who originally noticed that 80% of Italy’s land was owned by 20% of the population. This was latched on by management thinker Joseph M. Juran, who suggested that it could have wider implications.

The Pareto principle, which has been found to apply in a number of disparate fields, states thats that 80% of effects come from 20% of the causes.

The 92-20 rule

Now, according to the United Nations Development Programme, in 1989 the richest 20% of the world’s population controlled 82.7% of the world’s income:

Distribution of world GDP, 1989
Quintile of population Income
Richest 20% 82.70%
Second 20% 11.75%
Third 20% 2.30%
Fourth 20% 1.85%
Poorest 20% 1.40%

(I believe — although I have nothing to back up that belief — that this inequality has only gotten worse in the decades since: the rich have got richer, at the expense of the poor.)

So: if 80% of effects come from 20% of causes, the way forward seems clear to me. What’s needed is to focus the activities of the wealthy 20% on solving the world’s problems.

The next question, of course, is: how on Earth do we do that?

About pendantry

Phlyarologist (part-time) and pendant. Campaigner for action against anthropogenic global warming (AGW) and injustice in all its forms. Humanist, atheist, notoftenpist. Wannabe poet, writer and astronaut.
This entry was posted in ... wait, what?, balance, Biodiversity, Core thought, Environment, Health, Phlyarology, Strategy and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to The rule of thirds versus the Pareto principle

  1. Marushka says:

    I enjoyed the post – but am inclined to think that, even if it could be done (Gates Foundation, anyone?) – it will still result in the usual status quo. If anything, I think it will further concentrate power in the hands of those now perceived as “saviors” on top of, you know, controlling most of the world’s financial/political/informational resources. Better to focus on ideas and initiatives arising from the 80% of people who actually live in the world. That’s where you’re likely to find your 20% of productive ideas. Then focus on highlighting and communicating those ideas through platforms such as crowdfunding initiatives and independent media.

    Liked by 3 people

    • pendantry says:

      My own preference would be to remove the inquality entirely. But that will take too long — if it’s even possible (given the trend in recent years, that itself is a big ship to turn around). As for ‘saviours’: I think that might be the only way to encourage the wealthy to do the right thing, in the first place. There are so many ills in the world that need addressing, and sooner rather than later…

      The problem with the idea of getting 80% of folks to agree on anything is even worse than msjadeli’s ‘rule of thirds’ :(

      Crowdfunding could, perhaps, be a way forward. I’ve participated in some (trivial) crowdfunded efforts in the past, and the one thing I’ve learnt from them is that they rarely deliver on their promises. One big problem is that the sums of money that would be required to tackle some of these issues would attract the wrong type of people (ie those who would game the system for personal gain).

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Loved your poetic words on It is what it is…. Previous post

    A huge subject…. How on earth do we do that? you ask.. Good Question…

    The whole system has to collapse… Because the system only serves the few… It was designed that way… But that then only impacts more on those who have the least…. There are no easy solutions… But we are what we think… And our thoughts do create our reality…
    One only has to look around the room you are now in, to see everything, every item, was once a thought, brought into reality via someones willingness to go that extra mile and make it a reality.. Taking that idea, working with it, planning it, doing their homework, finding sponsors, manufacturing it to it being so it landed in your room for you to view it..

    It is the same with Global Consciousness… We manifest our experience via our thoughts and our perceptions, if we accept that we are already defeated that this is how it is and always will be.. Then it will be so…
    So we have to focus upon what it is we need to change in our reality…

    We can no longer point our fingers at others and say this is your problem fix it… It is our problem and we have to learn to fix ourselves, our attitudes, our perceptions our relationships, and our behaviours.. In both our respect of each other and Nature..

    It comes down to personal responsibility, but the majority think otherwise… Which is why this Mass Awakening has to happen Not only in waking people up to the Global Rule Elite, But if we are to survive as a species on this planet, ( we’ve been massively wiped out before ) we have to understand that we have to live in harmony with nature,

    I Listened to a very interesting dialogue the other day and found it very interesting in that you might find interesting in how Mother Nature works in ways we the lay person have not understood.. How it expands, changes and adapts..

    I have watched Nature this year, and it is flourishing… We too can flourish if we learn to co-operate instead of always competing …

    Great post and thank you Colin for allowing me to waffle along.. :-) 🙏

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Fandango says:

    Yes, that is, indeed the question. How do we overcome the greed and unenlightened self-interests of the 20% to focus on what’s in the best interests of the planet and of humanity in general rather than their own. Drive to acquire more and more wealth?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. blindzanygirl says:

    I don’t believe you can ever truly change the 20% sadly. I don’t think the 20% has any conception at all of what is going on with the 80%. Let alone care. I think, though, that sime want to APPEAR to care, which then fools some of the people some of the time. In my humble opinion, the only thing that TRULY changes people is when they have to experience something first hand for themsekves. I do stand to be corrected however. I know this is a load of cold water, but it is what I believe. And of course I may be wrong.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. In a sense this post of yours, Colin, links to a post of mine coming out tomorrow. It’s all about innovation: Products; Ideas; Beliefs; and more. And the fact that less than 2% are the innovators. I won’t say more but will just post this extract: Adoption of a new idea, behavior, or product (i.e., “innovation”) does not happen simultaneously in a social system; rather it is a process whereby some people are more apt to adopt the innovation than others. Researchers have found that people who adopt an innovation early have different characteristics than people who adopt an innovation later.

    We have global issues facing all the peoples of the world. No amount of tinkering with the ‘system’ is going to work. We need, the great majority of us that is, to be inspired, and that is going to need innovation!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. davidprosser says:

    If you can’t arrange for some thought control then I think you should raise taxes on the 1% or rather on their firms. I’m sure the ceo’s will still get their bonuses while the workers can get a tax deduction.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Great question.
    Hence, I am with the “we are doomed” team.
    Also, I hope to finish your book by the end of tomorrow. WIll reach out to you once that is done.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Ellen Hawley says:

    Or else we could adapt the theory of trickle-down economics. Clearly, something’s gone wrong and instead of trickling down, wealth is trickling up. Something’s blocking the flow. The clear solution is to give the world a good hard shake and redistribute the wealth.

    Liked by 2 people

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