[…] the highest form of virtue is unpopular. This does not mean that virtue is inherently unpopular, or correlates with unpopularity, only that unpopular acts signal some risk taking and genuine behavior.

Courage is the only virtue you cannot fake.

If I were to describe the perfect virtuous act, it would be to take an uncomfortable position, one penalized by the common discourse.

. . .

Sticking up for truth when it is unpopular is far more of a virtue, because it costs you something—your reputation. If you are a journalist and act in a way that risks ostracism, you are virtuous. Some people only express their opinions as part of mob shaming, when it is safe to do so, and, in the bargain, thinking that they are displaying virtue. This is not virtue but vice, a mixture of bullying and cowardice.


Finally, when young people who “want to help mankind” come to me asking, “What should I do? I want to reduce poverty, save the world,” and similar noble aspirations at the macro-level, my suggestion is:

1) Never engage in virtue signaling;

2) Never engage in rent-seeking;

3) You must start a business. Put yourself on the line, start a business.

Yes, take risk, and if you get rich (which is optional), spend your money generously on others. We need people to take (bounded) risks. The entire idea is to move the descendants of Homo sapiens away from the macro, away from abstract universal aims, away from the kind of social engineering that brings tail risks to society. Doing business will always help (because it brings about economic activity without large-scale risky changes in the economy); institutions (like the aid industry) may help, but they are equally likely to harm (I am being optimistic; I am certain that except for a few most do end up harming).

Courage (risk taking) is the highest virtue. We need entrepreneurs.

(188-189) Unpopular Virtue—Courage—Nobi…