If all men are said to have the same chances of advancement, those left behind will lose the face-saving and acceptable excuse of social injustice and lowly birth. The weakness of mind or character of the overwhelming majority of average or below-average people will be harshly revealed as the reason for failure, and it would be a poor observer of the human soul who thought that this revelation would not prove poisonous. No more murderous attack on the sum total of human happiness can be imagined than this kind of equality of opportunity, for, given the aristocratic distribution of the higher gifts of mind and character among a few only, such equality will benefit a small minority and make the majority all the unhappier.I copied this text last year, intending to post it, but I haven't gotten around to it because I am not sure how I feel about it. Is it the truth, expressed harshly? Or does it express contempt for most of humanity? Is it simply true that meritocracy, both as reality and ideology, will make many people feel terrible about themselves, or is this a lame excuse for hereditary rank? (Out of the kindness of our hearts, we will protect the commoners by keeping them out of a competition they cannot win. . . . ) But, anyway, this made a strong impression on me when I read it, so I have decided to toss it out and find out what others think.
Wednesday, March 25, 2015
The Problem with Meritocracy
Swiss economist Wilhelm Röpke (1899-1966):