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FlaGator
07-02-2012, 03:36 PM
This is a long article but very much worth the time spent to read it. Here is an excerpt:


The “open meritocracy” paradigm is very powerful in America today and, to some degree, we couldn’t live without it. William F. Buckley (and I) might rather be governed by names selected at random from the phone book than by the Harvard faculty, but nobody wants their airplane piloted or their kidney operation performed on that basis.

But, and this is what Hayes is pointing out, there are a couple of problems with meritocracy in practice. The first is, evidently, that it doesn’t always work as advertised. The “best and the brightest” organized the financial market reforms of the Clinton years that led to the Bush bubbles and the Obama doldrums, and neither the wars in Vietnam by the Kennedy era Great Meritocrats nor the Bush and Obama era wars were triumphs of social engineering.

The second problem is that in the end, meritocracy doesn’t promote democracy. The meritocrats may have won their positions through an open competition and their kids (with some advantages to be sure) are still going to have to struggle to make it into top colleges and so on, but once they win — they’re an elite. And their perceptions about how hard they competed and how fair the competition was makes them more smug and more entitled than the old elites ever were.

The new elites don’t feel guilty about their power; they didn’t inherit it. They earned it. They are smarter than everybody else and they deserve to rule — and in their own minds at least, they also deserve the perks that power brings. Money, fame, access: bring it on.
Wealth and entitlement corrupts the meritocratic elite. Members of this elite can no longer see society easily from the perspective of ordinary people and so their decisions increasingly reflect their own interests rather than those of the people they are supposed to represent. They lose the ability and perhaps also the will to be impartial arbiters between the masses and power; they identify with power and start to use their own influence to tilt the system farther and farther away from the populists and toward the old power centers.


The whole article is here (http://blogs.the-american-interest.com/wrm/2012/07/01/is-meritocracy-a-sham/)

DumbAss Tanker
07-02-2012, 05:18 PM
It is a fallacy to equate graduating"From a good school" with merit, when what that actually supplies are networking connections...particularly when one is admitted as a Legacy through another family member's previous connection with the school. It is equally a fallacy to use 'Elite' in connection with merit in the context of the excerpt since it actually means financially or positionally advantaged rather than 'smarter,' 'more competent,' or 'more knowledgeable' (Though the excerpt does seem to waffle back and forth between using it seriously and in a sarcastic or ironic sense).

For instance, nobody except possibly their respective mothers would claim that George W. Bush or Al Gore Jr. were particularly smart or really much of anything special beyond being guys raised in advantaged families who could therefore afford to attend a prestigious Ivy League school as Legacy appointments, and by virtue of family connections then receive entry into avenues of advancement that they could never have broken into solely on their own true merits.

Odysseus
07-02-2012, 05:37 PM
This is a long article but very much worth the time spent to read it. Here is an excerpt:



The whole article is here (http://blogs.the-american-interest.com/wrm/2012/07/01/is-meritocracy-a-sham/)

The two problems cited aren't problems, or rather, they aren't unique problems.



The first is, evidently, that it doesn’t always work as advertised. The “best and the brightest” organized the financial market reforms of the Clinton years that led to the Bush bubbles and the Obama doldrums, and neither the wars in Vietnam by the Kennedy era Great Meritocrats nor the Bush and Obama era wars were triumphs of social engineering.

Clinton's people were motivated by a desire to manipulate the economy so that they could ordain more equitable outcomes, which meant that while they may have been beneficiaries of a meritocracy that got them where they were, they were philosophically opposed to the very system that promoted them. This argument also presumes that they were the best and brightest, in the sense that Democracts thought that Obama was one of the best and brightest of his generation. Merit isn't simply getting into the "right" school and patting yourself on the back for the rest of your life for being smarter than the kids who went to state colleges, it's the sum of all of the decisions that you make over the course of your life. The best and brightest don't necessarily go to Ivy League schools, but they certainly figure out what to do with their education when they get out of the state college that the Ivy Leaguers sneered at. And, if I had to cite my experience, I'd say that the average infantryman is sharper than his Ivy League counterpart. I've had conversations with NYU and Columbia grads that made me cringe over their ignorance of basic history (like the NYU poli-sci grad who didn't know who Winston Churchill was), while my troops always surprise me with their desire to learn. My dad had a boss who had a saying that he used on college graduates who worked for him, "Don't let your education get in the way of your learning something."


The second problem is that in the end, meritocracy doesn’t promote democracy. The meritocrats may have won their positions through an open competition and their kids (with some advantages to be sure) are still going to have to struggle to make it into top colleges and so on, but once they win — they’re an elite. And their perceptions about how hard they competed and how fair the competition was makes them more smug and more entitled than the old elites ever were.

Again, this is a perception issue. It assumes that the people who are running the country are the best and brightest. The current crop of politicians are not men and women of accomplishment, as a rule, so much as effective politicians. They are good at campaigning and not much else. The problem isn't that meritocracies are imperfect at selecting leaders, it's that every system is imperfect at selecting leaders, and the solution is not to try to change what we think leadership is, but to go back to the checks and balances that mitigate bad leadership. A system that limited the power of the presidency wouldn't have attracted Bill Clinton or Barack Obama, but it would have appealed to a Washington or a Jefferson. In fact, it's funny that the debate back during the founding was whether or not to allow men like Washington and Jefferson to have incremental increases in authority, whereas today we are heaping power on men who aren't fit to polish the buckles on their shoes. We wouldn't have allowed the authors of the Constitution to nationalize health care, but we've let a community organizer who's never held a real job do it? What's wrong with that picture? The problem isn't merit, it's that the prize attracts the wrong kind of qualities.