Re: Guest Post: What's The Matter With Meritocracy

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I think the goal should be reducing inequality rather than sharpening the accuracy of the meritocracy.


Posted by: lemmy caution | Link to this comment | 12-18-17 1:22 PM
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1 seems right.

Also, I read somewhere (back when I was a social science person) that if status competition happens along a single axis, you will inevitably get ethnic violence or Donald Trump. "Merit" isn't inherently a single-factor measure like that, but seems to be treated as such in practice (e.g. test scores or something). That's not good.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-18-17 1:26 PM
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Actual merit -- whatever that is -- is not the concern of people who push meritocracy. If it were, the first item on the meritocratic agenda would be the implementation of confiscatory inheritance taxes.

Just spitballing here, but I think an authentic meritocratic agenda would also include something like:

-Free college and graduate school
-Universal healthcare
-Universal pre-K
-State or federal funding of all elementary and secondary schools.
-serious legal aid for the indigent
-Affirmative action (currently deemed to be the opposite of meritocracy).
-Maybe universal basic income.

I'm sure there's other stuff. The point is, an essential pre-condition of real meritocracy is real equality of opportunity.

And, of course, I'm not addressing the question of whether real meritocracy is desirable. I think I'm more of a "from each according to their ability, to each according to their need" kind of guy.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 12-18-17 1:28 PM
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Actual merit -- whatever that is -- is not the concern of people who push meritocracy. If it were, the first item on the meritocratic agenda would be the implementation of confiscatory inheritance taxes.

This is right!


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12-18-17 1:43 PM
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I think the goal should be reducing inequality rather than sharpening the accuracy of the meritocracy.

I completely agree as a matter of policy. My question was directed at the concept of "meritocracy." What should we make of the word (and like it or not, it's a word that people care about*)? I'm open to the idea that we should treat the concept as basically disreputable but, if that's the conclusion, it's worth noting that (a) it's not going to be an easy sell because (b) there are a lot of things that people value which are part of the popular sense of meritocracy, so we'd need to figure out whether we want to argue that those good things shouldn't be thought as virtues of meritocracy (that they are babies we don't want to throw out with the bathwater), or convincing people that they shouldn't be as quick as they are to, say, respect selective colleges.

I'm just saying, there's plenty of work to do conceptually without going directly to policy.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 12-18-17 1:54 PM
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There's also the issue that "merit" in terms of one person being uniquely best suited for one position is a total fantasy. Most jobs can be done perfectly well by anywhere from dozens to hundreds of thousands or millions of people. After a certain threshold of competence, you're looking at chance, random or otherwise, that any one person gets a job. And even to the extent some people are better than others at a certain job, it's very hard to measure or predict in advance who would be the best candidate, outside of very broad strokes like technical credentialing.


Posted by: Buttercup | Link to this comment | 12-18-17 2:04 PM
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Actual merit -- whatever that is -- is not the concern of people who push meritocracy. If it were, the first item on the meritocratic agenda would be the implementation of confiscatory inheritance taxes.

A thought that I had after sending in the guest post: most of what we would think of as desirable about having meritocratic institutions could be thought of as a sub-set of the broader concept of justice.

One could be cynical and think that part of the purpose of talking about "meritocracy" is to take off the table broader considerations of justice.

On the other hand, I'm not sure that much cynicism is required. There is no requirement that we always discuss things in the broadest possible terms; there's value in being able to focus on specific issues. In the case of "meritocracy" it combines "justice" and "fairness" in a way that's worth focusing on. However, and this is the point that I was trying to gesture at with my point IV, one reason to have a narrower focus is if it makes the issues more tractable. We might not be able to agree on "justice" but "meritocracy" sounds a lot more straightforward. However, that's not necessarily true, I'm not sure that it is simpler.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 12-18-17 2:04 PM
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And even to the extent some people are better than others at a certain job, it's very hard to measure or predict in advance who would be the best candidate, outside of very broad strokes like technical credentialing.

Pushing back a little bit; this is the sort of logic that leads to hiring people who just "seem like good people" (e.g., fit the backgrounds and prejudices of the people doing the hiring). It's much easier to predict who's personality will fit in than to predict who will be good at that job. So even though I agree that predictions about job performance are going to be _very_ inexact, there's still reason to want a process which has certain elements of formal fairness, and that's the sort of thing which gives "meritocracy" a good name.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 12-18-17 2:09 PM
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Oh sure, I don't think my comment was pushing against that at all. It's just we shouldn't believe that hiring processes are all that accurate at getting the "best" candidate (again, the concept of which I think is a fantasy).


Posted by: Buttercup | Link to this comment | 12-18-17 2:12 PM
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When we talk about having made a national push toward meritocracy in the past, however defined, what actual policies do we mean? Focusing college admission around SATs? Making some kind of college available to half the population? More formalized private hiring processes? Desegregation / affirmative action?

Or did we just dub the system we already had meritocracy?


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 12-18-17 2:15 PM
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It's just we shouldn't believe that hiring processes are all that accurate at getting the "best" candidate (again, the concept of which I think is a fantasy).

I agree -- I was certainly trying to say, "let's start by recognizing that the world is not a meritocracy. Should that be a goal (or a guiding principle even if it will never be completely achieved)?"


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 12-18-17 2:16 PM
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When we talk about having made a national push toward meritocracy in the past,

I don't have an immediate answer, but here's Rober Frank:

Markets are not perfectly meritocratic -- that's true. But by any standard it's clear that they're more meritocratic now than ever before in the past. Privilege always matters, but it mattered more in previous eras. Most of the people who emerge as big winners today do tend to be talented and hard-working, so there's at least a semblance of meritocracy.

What's also true is that being hard-working and talented are by no means sufficient to get you into the winner's circle. Luck matters a great deal.

I think his comment, "Privilege always matters, but it mattered more in previous eras." encompasses a number of different changes.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 12-18-17 2:19 PM
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+t

(and I should try to get back to work, but thanks Heebie for putting up the post. Obviously I have thoughts . . . )


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 12-18-17 2:19 PM
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When we talk about having made a national push toward meritocracy in the past, however defined, what actual policies do we mean?

maybe it's worth distinguishing between removing the formal barriers to everyone but white Protestant men, which I think is a pretty uncomplicated straightforward good, and the replacement of informal reputation and acquaintance networks ("old boy networks") with more formal standardized procedures for allocating jobs, promotions & etc. I think the latter is also good, but in a more complicated way, since the new systems, whatever they are, can usually be gamed by those with sufficient resources.

I recall a thread somewhere where people were pointing out how ridiculous it is to expect graduate students to pay out of pocket to attend the MLA meeting if they want a chance at a job. Michael Berube showed up to point out that the conference interview system was originally put in place to get past the older system, which was based almost entirely on your adviser calling up his old friend who is now the Chair of English department at school X.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 12-18-17 2:32 PM
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However, and this is the point that I was trying to gesture at with my point IV, one reason to have a narrower focus is if it makes the issues more tractable.

I find myself a bit at a loss to respond to this. I read you here as invoking the streetlight effect as an appropriate epistemic strategy because it "makes the issues more tractable."

I can't be right about that, though, because in the original post, in point IV, you correctly identify WYSIATI as a fallacy. I'm sure you're not endorsing the use of that fallacy here, but I can't quite work out what you are doing.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 12-18-17 2:33 PM
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I don't think that system is gone to any great degree.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-18-17 2:34 PM
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16 to 14.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-18-17 2:34 PM
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in the original post, in point IV, you correctly identify WYSIATI as a fallacy. I'm sure you're not endorsing the use of that fallacy here, but I can't quite work out what you are doing.

Sure, I'll take another stab at that. When I called it a "metaphor run amok" the metaphor that I was thinking of is that the idea that "merit" is a trait which can easily be measured or compared. If you think that "merit" is inherently contextual, situational, and individual than "merit" might not be any simpler than "justice."


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 12-18-17 2:39 PM
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One thing that has happened in elite colleges is that the meritocracy part has shifted to a gate keeping function (along with a bunch of non meritocractic considerations) and the grading system has become less hard. I think the model was that they used to just let rich people in then had pretty rigorous grading that didn't really matter much unless you wanted to go into academia.


Posted by: Lemmy caution | Link to this comment | 12-18-17 2:54 PM
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maybe it's worth distinguishing between removing the formal barriers to everyone but white Protestant men, which I think is a pretty uncomplicated straightforward good, and the replacement of informal reputation and acquaintance networks ("old boy networks") with more formal standardized procedures for allocating jobs, promotions & etc. I think the latter is also good, but in a more complicated way, since the new systems, whatever they are, can usually be gamed by those with sufficient resources.

I feel like since the Great Recession we've gone a long way back to the old system. Not just in academic hiring but in all kinds of processes where someone gets chosen for some great opportunity. Let's say you used to have 10 positions, and 6 positions were chosen through a real competitive process and 4 went to people with connections. This worked for a while, it was way better than all 10 going to people with connections, but you still have the beloved collegiality and family atmosphere that comes with nepotism. Now with budget cuts, there's 6 positions, and it's 2 chosen competitively and 4 for people with connections.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 12-18-17 2:55 PM
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People do understand that the term "Meritocracy" was coined as a satirical critique of British society in the 1950s? The author certainly didn't think it was a good idea as he saw it practiced.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 12-18-17 3:06 PM
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18: I actually think merit is a manageable concept, but if you're not talking about meritocracy in the context of equal opportunity, then you're starting out with a shitty definition of merit that (as I think you say in the OP) leads us pretty directly to aristocracy.

Modern-day meritocrats allegedly want to bring us forward from the days when bloodlines were a key measure of merit. And yet, the measures they propose -- educational attainment, say -- are proxies for those bloodlines.

The actual, real-world advantage of modern meritocracy is that it is less effective at supporting entrenched privilege. But intrinsic to its design is that it supports entrenched privilege.

Class mobility is one indication of genuine meritocracy. And yet, the "meritocratic" US scores low on that measure because of screwy assumptions about merit. If "meritocracy" requires that we maintain those assumptions, then I'm agin' it.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 12-18-17 3:08 PM
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Speaking of modern meritocracy, I believe I just passed Thomas Friedman on the street. A Google image search confirms that he is, in fact, greyer than most published images portray him. If it was him, he's not very tall, either, but height stats on pundits aren't readily available for some reason.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 12-18-17 3:21 PM
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21: Halberstam's "The Best and the Brightest" was intended ironically. And Network and Idiocracy were satires. Welcome to our new meritocratic world, where anybody who is born with a billion dollars can become president, and a man like Thomas Friedman, through sheer force of intellectual eminence, can become a leading public intellectual.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 12-18-17 3:26 PM
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23 - he might be a professional Thomas Friedman impersonator, or a guy who pretends to be Thomas Friedman to pick up women.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 12-18-17 3:39 PM
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Interesting idea, I did not know about the interesting satire in 21, or a British system that tested kids at 11 for life fate.

I suspect that a lot of the appeal of the idea of meritocracy comes from sports, where objectives are narrow and comparisons are easy. Whereas for most work, objectives are not narrow, and comparing work product is at best complicated-- often eather pointless (for repetitive work) or impossible (for work with either a social or creative dimension). Since a lot of the work being assessed through meritocratic lenses today in the US is computer work, maybe Mythical Man Month or Soul of a New Machine are relevant to mention.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 12-18-17 3:41 PM
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... maybe Mythical Man Month or Soul of a New Machine are relevant to mention.

I'm a fan of both books, and curious how you intended to bring them into the conversation.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 12-18-17 3:48 PM
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25. Isn't Mrs Thomas Friedman richer than all the NFL coaches put together? She obviously had some choice in the marrying, not just keeping the dude and his moustache around, but making a legal union. In a pretty real sense, TF did great there, finding a spouse who could keep him in a style more saturated in shitty luxury than the one he was raised in.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 12-18-17 3:49 PM
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Both books point out how assessing a particular kind of workplace merit is difficult but not completely impossible.

The practical reality of figuring out who is good is somewhere between on one hand the fantasy leagues of sports fans and on the other the egalitarian notion that above a certain threshold of competence, you can drop anyone above threshold into many jobs. For computer work, the ideal seems to be for many employers rapid and cheap implementation of ill-considered ideas, so if the job is just to duct tape some databases together or make a front-end that'll be used for a year or two, then it is true that it's possible to drop almost anyone in. That's a depressing work environment to consider though.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 12-18-17 3:58 PM
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23 how did you miss your chance to punch him?


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 12-18-17 4:18 PM
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I've mentioned before that a passenger on a bus in DC asked me if I was Friedman.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 12-18-17 4:22 PM
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On meritocracy, it seems to me quite likely that most hiring isn't unlike my hires have been: you get 15 or 20 applicants at least minimally qualified for the position, and maybe 5 or 6 that are indistinguishable on any of the stated criteria. You can see trade-offs -- just guessing what kind of colleague they'll be -- but you still end up without much of a compelling difference between your top 3 candidates.

Meritocracy would mean giving each a sword and saying there can only be one.

Or maybe it's just picking which one you want to spend your waking hours with in a foxhole. I suppose what makes it meritocratic is that you're applying the foxhole test to the 3 (or the 5 or 6) candidates, rather than the five names you'd have gotten by calling friends and asking who they know who needs a job.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 12-18-17 4:31 PM
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30: I'm sure uncertainty over who it was played a big role. But after finding images of him standing next to other people, I am now convinced it was him. (He seemed taller in his newspaper mug shot.)

Some years ago, in the same neighborhood, I passed by Robert Novak and really did, in the moment, want to punch the sonofabitch.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 12-18-17 4:47 PM
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chris y made the point I was going to, so I'll say instead that I think this issue is one of many where people tend to get tripped up on the distinction between individual and societal benefit.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12-18-17 4:53 PM
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I don't worry about meritocracy as much as I worry about our current government which exults in raw incompetence and stupidity. This was a big problem in England at various times. First the rulers claimed divine right. Then they claimed that they were the one's who fought for everyone. Then they claimed they were too stupid to come up with anything better. We seem to have taken things one step farther, claiming that stupidity as a virtue.



Posted by: Kaleberg | Link to this comment | 12-18-17 5:07 PM
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It's hard to argue against meritocracy if you are going to have rulers of any sort. The issue is defining merit. In some societies merit is the measure of God's will. In others merit revolves around their ability to kill their rivals before their rivals kill them. The US might define merit as in being able to get the most votes in the right places so that they count as much as possible. A society could define merit as the number of fingers on both hands and have itself ruled by twelve fingered mutants.

If we are talking about using merit to allocate goods and services rather than political power, then it is hard not to get down into the weeds since there has to be a balance between producing those goods and services and distributing them.


Posted by: Kaleberg | Link to this comment | 12-18-17 5:16 PM
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32. Most of my hires have happened because I was a friend of someone already working at the place I applied to. I recall several times when one of the interviewers said, "X said you were smart, so I'm not sure why we are going through these motions." (To be sure I have been hired to other places via the standard process, which studies show involves the interviewers deciding in the first 30 seconds whether to hire you or not. If you don't spit on them or drop your pants they don't change their minds.)

Or to put it another way, "meritocracy hiring is bullshit." It's similar to how God inspires the cardinals to select the right Pope.


Posted by: DaveLMA | Link to this comment | 12-18-17 5:18 PM
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Or to put it another way, "meritocracy hiring is bullshit."

Doesn't this depend on whether they should have hired someone else?


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 12-18-17 5:33 PM
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Or does it depend on whether instead of hiring someone who's smart enough and clearly qualified, and vouched for by someone they know, they should instead look for someone else.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 12-18-17 5:37 PM
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When you're hiring, you're not looking for 'the most deserving person.' This is the exact thinking that led to generations of women being passed over, or, when hired, underpaid, because some man had a family to take care of.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 12-18-17 5:41 PM
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The traditionalist elite reproduces itself flawlessly.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-18-17 5:42 PM
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I just read this on Chinese civil service examinations.* In theory, this was a meritocracy; what was actually tested was essentially cultural correctness. The literacy prerequisites shut out at least 90% of the population; the exams themselves weren't much better than a lottery, and frequently corrupted.
They did nonetheless produce a degree of social mobility (mostly within that top 10%), not through recognition of raw talent but mostly through transfers of resources through kinship groups; I'm guessing the exam-prep industry was also effectively a redistributive tax within the 10%.
Crucially though, the exam system bound the elite to the state. Holding degrees gave tax privileges; holding offices was sometimes profitable; bureaucratic literacy allowed one to deal with the government. Elite cohesion is really vital** (witness the current US), and I suspect that cohesion is actually the first virtue of any state educational system.
I agree with everyone upthread that redistribution and equality of opportunity are the real desiderata; but a myth of meritocracy can*** help produce the societal cohesion needed to make those policies work. I'm curious how European societies frame this, France especially with its ├ęcoles.
*On the late empire, Ming-Qing; the system changed over time, but apparently the political economy in earlier periods was similar.
**Necessary, but of course not sufficient, for a good society.
***But doesn't necessarily.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 12-18-17 7:34 PM
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Grandes ├ęcoles.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 12-18-17 8:42 PM
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Guess what, guys! You'll never guess.

The legislator from this thread has been accused of a telling sexually suggestive "jokes" to his employees and inappropriately touching a couple of people.

Worse, confronted with a news story about his behavior, he issued a non-apology apology and went on the attack.

As someone who has known him (vaguely) for 15 years and was once on his general e-mail mailing list, I have to say that the reported behavior sounds entirely consistent with the "jokes" he used to think were funny to tell in a mass e-mail that went to hundreds of semi-strangers and donors.

It's a bummer because the truth is he was *also* a strong voice for women's rights in an otherwise pretty regressive state. But on balance, I think his response to the allegations pretty much proves that he doesn't have the judgment or the maturity for the job he has or the job he wants. Time to make room for some new faces.


Posted by: President Stately | Link to this comment | 12-18-17 9:08 PM
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I recall Mote's history (of the whole of Imperial China) describing many stages of the examination system, some of them much better at hauling smart boys out of the lower-middle classes than others. Only when there were cheap widespread dame schools* was this possibly useful for the lower classes, of course.

*wevs


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 12-18-17 9:09 PM
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Clew!


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-18-17 9:11 PM
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Everyone comes out for the eight-legged essays.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 12-18-17 9:13 PM
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Imperial China has a whole extra pint compared to regular China.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-18-17 9:17 PM
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Anyway, I think China should go back to rule by the fire benders until they catch up.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-18-17 9:43 PM
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I have this creeping suspicion Moby and I aren't on the same page.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 12-18-17 10:09 PM
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36: good points. Merit can be along multiple axes -- Nikola Tesla was one of the best in his field, but he was pathetic at amassing wealth and power. On the other hand, what some people are good at is gaining power. They have the charisma and political savvy needed to claw their way to the top of a hierarchy. But those skills are orthogonal to their ability to grow the economy or protect the long-term health of the biosphere. A true meritocracy rewards merit in the ability to amass power.

Hierarchy is largely unavoidable, but we should treat it like other unavoidable human vices -- mitigate its harm by channeling it through predictable and transparent institutions with built-in checks and balances.


Posted by: Frostbite | Link to this comment | 12-18-17 10:25 PM
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EXACTLY.


Posted by: OPINIONATED CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION | Link to this comment | 12-18-17 11:39 PM
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I think the problem with meritocracy is that there is a natural tendency to think of the people who end up at the bottom as undeserving. Even in a perfect meritocracy the people at the bottom are human beings and deserve decent treatment, which capitalism + meritocracy tends not to give them.

Related: http://billmoyers.com/story/everything-thats-tied-coming-loose/


Posted by: roger the cabin boy | Link to this comment | 12-19-17 6:29 AM
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OP last: meritocracy seems somehow inextricably linked to scarcity. If all jobs were decent-paying and not utterly dehumanizing, meritocracy would lose some of its intensity and bite.
Lose some bite yes, but not disappear at all as a problem. For one, positional goods still matter hugely, even once subsidence is met. For two, your non-scarce society won't just happen, it will need management, and who manages it will matter hugely.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 12-19-17 7:10 AM
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23, 30 or at least tell him to go "suck on this."


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 12-19-17 7:13 AM
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Positional goods are an issue, but I think that removing the extreme link between adequately funded schools and where you have your house would help a great deal since being able to afford a house in a 'good' school district is the great white hope of overly washed masses.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-19-17 7:25 AM
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Following my though here, the thought that housing is the most important positional good, having a good commute is the another significant part of the cost of a house. The effect of that could be reduced by improved public transportation, but I think most people playing the real estate game are going to be slow to give up the "interstate to new suburb with zoning restrictions to keep out the poors" model.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-19-17 7:59 AM
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I think that's because housing isn't just a positional good but also a "pass the cost of maintaining public goods onto someone else while maintaining use of said goods" game.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-19-17 8:02 AM
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||

I have a post if I can only get our fucking internet to cooperate.

|>


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12-19-17 8:08 AM
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This thread is doing well. (And thanks to NickS.)


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 12-19-17 8:09 AM
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Real estate people say "they aren't making any more land," but that ignores volcanoes and earth benders.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-19-17 8:14 AM
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And reclamation. Hong Kong harbour is considerably narrower than it used to be. (As is the Thames for that matter.)


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 12-19-17 8:36 AM
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That's earth benders.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-19-17 8:37 AM
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I learned yesterday that when the Japanese occupied Korea they deliberately built their colonial administration HQ so it blocked a line of mystic telluric force running from the top of a nearby mountain to the Korean imperial palace.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 12-19-17 9:00 AM
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64: Interesting. Cite?


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 12-19-17 9:05 AM
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I imagine sited anywhere along the line would work.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-19-17 9:11 AM
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Myers, "The Cleanest Race".


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 12-19-17 9:11 AM
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67: Thanks.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 12-19-17 9:20 AM
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I'm glad she's moved on past sexy vampires.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-19-17 9:21 AM
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I don't know. Most of the Kims are undead these days.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 12-19-17 9:23 AM
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Certainly they are in my fan fiction, "Fifty Shades Of Intermediate-Range Ballistic Missile Deployment".


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 12-19-17 9:37 AM
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IYKWIMAITYD.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-19-17 9:38 AM
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The war faction, thoroughly discredited, was thrown out of office. The severed head of its leader was sent in a lacquer box to the Jin.
Because meritocracy needs penalties too.
Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 12-19-17 9:43 AM
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That sounds like a quality job with the lacquer if it kept the brain juices from leaking out.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-19-17 9:47 AM
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It was diplomacy. Only the best would do.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 12-19-17 9:52 AM
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49; 61: good points, mobes.


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 12-19-17 11:26 AM
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"OP last: meritocracy seems somehow inextricably linked to scarcity. If all jobs were decent-paying and not utterly dehumanizing, meritocracy would lose some of its intensity and bite.
Lose some bite yes, but not disappear at all as a problem. For one, positional goods still matter hugely, even once subsidence is met. For two, your non-scarce society won't just happen, it will need management, and who manages it will matter hugely."

Positional goods have become more expensive with rising inequality. inequality is the reason people freak out about "good school systems", for example. Inequality also creates a large subset of the population that can afford vastly more expensive concert tickets and college tuitions.


Posted by: lemmy caution | Link to this comment | 12-19-17 11:42 AM
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52: good one. But I'm thinking more "Tyranny of Structurelessness" than US Constitution. In word, Alexander Hamilton was all about meritocracy: "There are strong minds in every walk of life that will rise superior to the disadvantages of situation, and will command the tribute due to their merit, not only from the classes to which they particularly belong, but from the society in general. The door ought to be equally open to all." But that mentality treats merit the same way some tiresome types treat IQ.


Posted by: Frostbite | Link to this comment | 12-19-17 11:57 AM
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Stupid "Rise Up" earworm.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-19-17 12:10 PM
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80

Why? Have you been living on your knees?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12-19-17 12:14 PM
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That and I don't want to waste my shot.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-19-17 12:23 PM
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So I've gathered that that's some kind of Hamilton thing but it always earworms me with Eminem whenever I see it quoted.


Posted by: Tom Scudder | Link to this comment | 12-19-17 12:54 PM
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Hamilton's mom had spaghetti, but not in a way we can understand.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-19-17 1:00 PM
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There's a million things I haven't done, but just you wait...


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 12-19-17 2:55 PM
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Hi! My name is...Hi! My name is...Hi! My name is Alexander Hamilton...


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12-19-17 3:23 PM
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So much Ham Love.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12-19-17 3:52 PM
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77: Positional goods have become more expensive with rising inequality.
Flattening income distribution would reduce the nominal prices of positional goods, but not necessarily their desirability; inasmuch as acquisition of those goods depended on "merit", people would continue to care about "meritocracy". Other positional goods,* that couldn't straightforwardly be bought - posts, degrees, titles, awards, whatever - would presumably be part of the meritocracy itself, not mediated by money at all.
Non-economic motives certainly played a major part in the late imperial exams system, for instance. The odds of success there were so small that the economically rational thing would have been to stop studying after passing the lowest tier of exams, but apparently very few did so; and the workings of the system were always controversial, at every level of society.
*Maybe I'm using the term incorrectly here.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 12-19-17 9:48 PM
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OP.last: If all jobs were decent-paying and not utterly dehumanizing, meritocracy would lose some of its intensity and bite

6: There's also the issue that "merit" in terms of one person being uniquely best suited for one position is a total fantasy. Most jobs can be done perfectly well by anywhere from dozens to hundreds of thousands or millions of people.

34: I think this issue is one of many where people tend to get tripped up on the distinction between individual and societal benefit.

Let me add huge value to the end of a dead thread by making a glaringly obvious point that I meant to make but didn't in some James Shearer-dominated thread 5+ years ago. Things like getting onto med school are perversely viewed as "rewards" when in fact it is the mechanism for proving people for an important part of the healthcare delivery system. All of the points above conspire to make the righteous fuckheads amongst to have weird views on the matter that dominate the public discussion of the role of things like the role of diversity or being intimately familiar with under-served communities.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 12-20-17 8:46 AM
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Things like getting onto med school are perversely viewed as "rewards" when in fact it is the mechanism for proving people for an important part of the healthcare delivery system.

Given the rent-seeking opportunities for US doctors, I think calling it a "reward" isn't entirely inappropriate.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 12-20-17 9:27 AM
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The tax bill make me think this phase of US History should be called "Triumph of the Rentiers." For the specific bill I like Rep. Clyburn's "the Republican Donor-Class Relief Act."


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 12-20-17 9:53 AM
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||

Late imperial China came to feature a massive and unhappy reservoir of victims of debt, downward mobility, and bondage; a lower class of boatmen and porters, of drifters and bandits; of criminal gangs and sectarian adherents; of despised and legally disfranchised groups such as musicians, beggars, and the like that the Yongzheng emperor tried to emancipate in the 1720s and 1730s. There were more than sufficient labor reserves at hand to fuel the widespread bond servant rebellions and other disorders of the late Ming, as well as the huge Taiping and other upheavals that engulfed China in the middle of the nineteenth century.
O you who turn the wheel and look to windward...
|>


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 12-20-17 9:57 AM
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