Trite and tautological though the claim may be, permit me to begin by stating the obvious: it is good when good things happen.  Good fortune and good luck are called so for a reason, just as are bad fortune and bad luck.  Humans disagree about what is and isn’t good, some of them even going so far as to deny the objectivity of goodness altogether.  But when it comes to fortune, humans seem to be able to tell the difference between good and bad automatically and without strenuous discernment.

I suspect that good luck is envied more than is a good character.  If that is so, it is not because the former is superior, but because it is apprehended with relative ease.  Lottery ticket sales seem to prove the point, as millions of humans spend their money regularly to give themselves a remote chance at good luck.  You can’t win if you don’t buy a ticket, right?  In contrast, the conditions by which a man’s character is deemed good are disputable and, when the notion of good character is not entirely dismissed, disputed.  Of course, we ought not envy anyone anything, let alone their good luck; even less should we envy a man his virtue – rather should we learn from and imitate him.  Nonetheless, luck is envied often, virtue rarely.  Because many people presume to know what it is, there is no controversy in wishing for good luck, or in recognizing it, when we get it, as genuinely beneficial.  In contrast, there is much – and oftentimes vehement – disagreement with respect to goodness per se.

Because the desire for good things is natural, it is proper to wish for good fortune rather than bad fortune.  We all have luck, both good and bad, and we all rightly prefer to get the good kind more often than not, and much more often than the bad kind.  But, as any sensible adult knows, good fortune isn’t enough.  All the good luck in the world will not, on its own, make life satisfying, let alone good.  It may make it better than it would be otherwise, but better is not necessarily good.  We want to live well, not just to have good things happen to us periodically.  As much as we wish for and benefit from good luck, the advantageousness of the uncontrolled contingencies of our lives has little, if anything, to do with moral decency.  And because virtue is the way to happiness, good luck will not make us happy, either.

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