Meritocracy? Not Even Close

The middle class in every country really just wants three things: Liberty, Prosperity, and Dignity.

Socialism denies all three in the name of protecting them. Our current model of (Crony) Capitalism limits their accessibility to only a few people and declares that there’s simply not enough to go around and that ‘at least we have a meritocracy to decide who gets what.’ It’s a sham meritocracy, though. Yes, it benefits the people who got good grades in high school and made it into Harvard. But who gets into Harvard? The children of people who went to college, who could afford SAT prep courses, who had the money or time to drive their kids to extracurricular activities, children who could take that service trip to Honduras instead of working two jobs to help pay their families’ bills. That’s not a meritocracy. That’s a lie.

It’s a rigged system, rigged for the elites by the elites. Not maliciously. It’s just that they know not what they do. The system has been designed to make them feel good about themselves. As long as it looks like a meritocracy, they don’t feel bad about the inequality of opportunity. As long as there are a few token kids of extraordinary intelligence pulled out of the ghetto and given a free ride to Yale, they can suspend their disbelief about how the system they designed, the system they support keeps the masses from Liberty, Prosperity, and Dignity. They aren’t bad, they’re just ignorant, perhaps willfully so.

The worst are often the people who came from humble beginnings and ‘made it,’ who joined the Club, and now have an inflated sense of self-importance. These people are as zealous as reformed smokers–“If I can do it, anybody can. Everybody else is just not as smart or doesn’t work as hard as I did.” When in reality, by accident of genetics, they ended up with the particular kind of intelligence that the system measures, and they are the lucky ones ushered into the Club to prove that it’s really a meritocracy.

Unfortunately the defenders of the system are ruining the reputation of capitalism and discrediting the liberating and democratic nature of free markets. They claim it’s a level playing field when everybody else knows it isn’t. Until we reject the lie of the meritocracy, we will continue to feel the pressure toward more failed socialist experiments.

To the elites: It’s time to let go.

  • Paulo R. Ribeiro

    Your text reminds me of this quote:

    “The society doesn’t exist as one unity being. There’s no one to blame; it’s just blindness guiding blindness.”

    Good piece. I can say I’m one of those who born with little and is striving to succeed. And yes, every once and while this “inflated sense of self-importance” comes up. But, as I saw Michael Lewis talking the other day ( most of HUGE success comes from luck, so it’s obligation for everybody feeling grateful and give back. I’ll try to always remember that.