Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Meritocracy Shortcomings

I am amused by this letter to ST Online, "Meritocracy Shortcomings". Love a few turn of phrase from the writer.

E.g., To state that there is such a thing as "compassionate meritocracy" is to make as much sense as former United States president George W. Bush's "compassionate conservatism". Putting the term "compassionate" before an ideology does not suddenly add heart power to it.

and prior to the above, he also wrote,

he corollary of the so-called positive aspects of meritocracy is that it provides an equal opportunity to also dump the least advantaged into socio-economic badlands in pursuit of individual advantage and influence for oneself above all others. Some call this elitism.

which can be summed in one line: Meritocracy is used to justify Elitism, but if you want the garnishing that goes with the dish, read the guy!

All the writers before and including this chap had missed the overarching force that we all have to reckon with in our subscription to Meritocracy: Luck.

To begin, most of us have won the ovarian lottery being born in a first world society. Only the young and naive think their success is determined by hard work achieved by merit. Time will teach them that luck will play a much larger role. For example, bad luck can give you a fatal disease. Whatever merit you have got is nought. For most of us, bad luck usually come in the form of bad bosses.

The successful hate to admit that their success is in no small part due to their good luck. The human mind is a genius at explaining away good fortune. Just ask anyone who has recently made money in the markets. Read the guys and gals who had won business awards. Few are as honest as Michael Bloomberg or Warren Buffet on the role luck had played in their success.

What does it mean?

In our heart of hearts, we know the inestimable and significant role of luck in our success. The successful frightened that their luck my not persist and ever worried about the prospects for their progeny will seek to load the dice in their favor. Therefore what started out as fairly meritocratic will become less and less over time. Society will stratify into classes and upward mobility will decline.

The wise politician will run the country such that practically all boats will rise together even as the class structure become more set. The naive leaders will allow the wealth gap to widen because they foolishly believed wealth would trickle down. Had they have more heart for the common man, they would not have made this mistake because you want to be surer that wealth would indeed get spread around more. If the price is a smaller pie, so be it. We must preserve our intangibles because they are the foundations of the house of nation. They would have tested if the trickle down effect worked in practice. This same cavalier attitude is repeated again when they allowed Meritocracy to justify Elitism. As a result there will be a growing cynicism that tomorrow would be better for most of us. Concomitantly, there is erosion of the social compact.

Whoever assume that tomorrow is an extrapolation of today is gravely mistaken. In this sense, assets are over priced. We need to reexamine and retool. We must compete to become better, but not hyper compete.  Extreme competition breeds insecurity even among the most successful. Insecure folks are not generous or caring people. A few exceptions the government like to bandy do not represent the character of the herd.

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