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Tuesday, October 22. 2019
It's a peculiar topic, best addressed in specifics rather than in generalities. Specific acquired skills and developed talents. It's not too difficult to measure their value. Can you play world-class violin? Can you frame a shed that will not fall down? Can you make a route over a mountain from point A to point B? Can you help an autistic child behave in a civil manner? Can you hit a fastball? Most adults become pretty good at assessing the obvious merits (and flaws) of others. For less evident skills, an oral exam or written exam or performance exam vets out specific merits pretty well. Especially logic and math.
We want bridges that will not collapse, and there is nothing easy at all about that. Yet, our elites happily drive over those bridges with any clue about how they came to be.
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It's the war between the "good enough" and the "best". The problem is that the good enough all think that the best opportunities should be available to the good enough, while the best think that the best opportunities should be restricted to the best, because the good enough aren't really good enough. and even most of the good enough want the best when they're concerned, but think that good enough is good enough for the best.
In a democracy, by definition there will always be more of the good enough than the best, so they will try to vote the best for all of the good enough, while the best will try to keep themselves in power, usually by the votes of the people who they think aren't even good enough to be good enough.
Scott Adams talks about "talent stacks." A brilliant concept. A tall stack of B attributes is great.
The author seems to get wrapped around the axle with the concept of a common yardstick. That is irrelevant. Take, for example the case of hiring an employee. The only yardstick that matters is that of the employer. If the boss's yardstick is poorly defined, he will hire someone who, while meeting his criteria, will cause the company to suffer and the boss with the better yardstick will likely hire a better employee and his company would probably benefit.
Beyond that, the object of the endeavor is important. In the case of teachers or professors, if your object is to teach students a subject well, that would require a person with skills that could be different from a professor who is hired to perform research, and different from a person whose objective is to indoctrinate students.
Most situations fit with this general scenario.
Well-spoken thoughts. A brief counter-point though, if you'll allow it: We should distinguish between intrinsic and extrinsic value here.
Our betters will tell you that if they don't believe something (or someone) has merit, then it doesn't matter whether another believes such merit is inherent. We have become complacent to arguments that a human is not a human until life has been defined by recognized authority, rather than accepting the intrinsic worth, beauty, and merit of human life at all stages. Your "intrinsic" right to own a firearm is moot if those defining the merits of such ownership deny that right.
Extrinsic merit is fundamentally problematic, as Schroeder, Mason, and other philosophers have proposed. To your example, a yardstick is only useful as a unit of measure when it has been constructed to the same length as a certified standard. Standards are reached by consensus, and some simply nod to natural phenomena (water boiling at 100 degrees c). But if you decide your yardstick is better (i.e. a meter-stick), bad things happen. Just ask the Mars Lander folks.
This is wandering a bit, but fundamentally what we're talking about here in my view is playing God. Either all things are created by Him, or through His agency in Men, and thus have intrinsic merit. This was fundamental to our Constitution by the way. Or, Men step into God's shoes to determine what has merit and what does not. This is the domain of the Meritocracy and the State.
History has demonstrated time and again the evil of the latter approach.
I think the fundamental problem is really two-fold.
The majority of our 'elite' reject the application of a standard merit yardstick if the applying the yardstick produces results they don't like, while at the same time demanding everyone use the widely varying yardsticks they do like without regard to the fitness of the measure.
i.e. what they call a 'merit' system is anything but.
The word "Good" fits into three categories.
2. Of High Quality
So I suppose that merit would contain some elements of all three categories. We all want to be thought of as high-quality; so that's some good DNA you've got there! But what can you do if you're ugly? Well, you had better be really kind and virtuous.
But what if you're an ugly asshole? Then you had better be really virtuous. But virtue isn't something that you can assign to yourself. It has to be attributed to you by other people.
And the most virtuous people of all are those who have suffered. They're Martyrs, and even Saints. Just like Martin Luther King Jr. and Maya Angelou.
This is a terrific idea - and to make it work properly, we can take the proponents of these ideas (i.e. those against the principles of Meritocracy) and provide them with comprehensive health care services. They will volunteer for this to prove their point. The service will provide for the assignment of surgeons, oncologists, and other medical specialists solely by criteria of Affirmative Action and other societal levelers to ensure that its completely neutral with respect to merit. Ought to work out great within a maximum of 2 generations.
The question of the value of meritocracy only became popular when the feminists, the victims, etc., who were passed through university without acquiring true and deep understanding of their special fields, began to fail in the positions of authority for which they were not qualified. It all came about when it become clear that most of the preferred "chosen" women were not qualified to lead in the STEM courses. Therefore, we had to reduce the accepted knowledge levels (teach down -- not up) of particular STEM classes in order for "victims" to be placed in leadership roles. I respectfully request that you asses the content of deep subjects in major universities--take a look at the teacher's syllabus, listen to their recorded lectures, and examine the process and results of "testing" (OMG how horrible and unfair is that concept!) When we look at our universities and the failure of our new military equipment, i.e. Battleship Zumwalt, the failure of Boeing designers and production leadership, the failure of our DNC to sustain a rational conversation--then you will understand how it is that "merit" came to be such a GD nuisance! .
The elite are fine with Florida International University's "Florida Bimbo Bridge" because they know full well their Only Ones will make sure they do not enjoy the same fate as those 6 people.
The administrative state loves their merit bonuses … surely you need only ask the deep state what is "merit" in life like defending political correctness and in education it just has to be something in the "studies" department that qualifies anyone for meritorious service in government.
This is what to expect when education no longer values merit:
The critics of merit are putting all of our lives at stake.
There are many kinds of merit, and each is best evaluated by the person (not oneself) who stands to gain or lose from its presence or absence.
The best general way to prevent the consequences of lack of merit, such as falling bridges, is to carefully design liability rules so that the person who could have most cheaply prevented a loss bears the loss. Perhaps we should revive the Roman custom that required the designer of a bridge to be in a boat underneath it on opening day.