Vilfredo Pareto made several important contributions to economics.
You probably learned the Pareto Principle the easy way. Maybe you heard about the concept in the business press: “Studies show that in most companies 80 percent of revenue comes from 20 percent of clients.”
Perhaps you picked it up during a time management course: “You should spend 80 percent of your time on the 20 percent of activities that are most useful to you.”
Not me. I learned about Pareto the hard way. As a student in honors political science, I had to read the whole damn book (books, actually, as the work consists of four volumes). My professor, who was French, charming, and possessed of a slightly sadistic streak, insisted on it.
Almost 30 years later, I can barely remember that I went to a university—never mind the contents of a four-volume work by a verbose Italian economist. But I can say that a lifetime of writing has taught me how to try to beat Vilfredo Pareto’s depressing odds.