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Sunday, December 15. 2019
The argument that meritocracy is unfair
Aristocracy was unfair. Meritocracy was the new thing but first the Jews, and then Asians figured out how to do meritocracy and now it is unfair. Now, from one point of view, success is unfair. Problem is that success is only individually defined.
A speech by Yale Law Prof Daniel Markovits, the author of The Meritocracy Trap. I see many erroneous assumptions in this guy's arguments (a c-span video). He seems to want to eat the wealthy, kill the kulaks. He thinks too much about money, as if it were the meaning of life. Maybe I think too much about freedom and free life choices.
For minor wealth, I work pretty hard and do the S&P index. For major wealth, I invest in Powerball at $2/month.
He thinks he discovered that life is unfair. If you have the time to listen to Markovits, I'd be interested in your reactions.
Posted by The Barrister in Education at 14:05 | Comments (24) | Trackbacks (0)
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If a Yale professor is against "meritocracy," he should resign from his position at Yale.
Did I miss something? Who said 'unfair' is wrong as a life concept? If you think life shouldn't be 'unfair', my first response would be, 'choose better parents next time'. Pick ones with perfect genes, and then be prepared to never complain.
Or choose worse parents. Is it fair that you have all this extra time and mental facility to consider these abstract concepts with? Dull your brain with alcohol until you're the equal of less lucky people.
We don't have a meritocracy, we have a credentialocracy. It is the natural outcome of the advancement of the bureaucracy. When you advancement is limited by the selection from someone above, meritocracy is perverted by the networking effect of having the proper label on your credentials.
America today is very different than America of 70 years ago and very much like Europe in the establishment and maintenance of privileges by those who achieved control over the Administrative State, which includes not only government bureaucrats but also university denizens.
HIGH-BROWS turn up their noses at Horatio Alger’s philosophy. Yet Alger succeeded better than anybody else in stressing the most characteristic point of capitalist society. Capitalism is a system under which everybody has the chance of acquiring wealth; it gives everybody unlimited opportunity. Not everybody, of course, is favored by good luck. Very few become millionaires. But everybody knows that strenuous effort and nothing less than strenuous effort pays. All roads are open to the smart youngster. He is optimistic in the awareness of his own strength. He has self-confidence and is full of hope. And as he grows older and realizes that many of his plans have been frustrated, he has no cause for despair. His children will start the race again and he does not see any reason why they should not succeed where he himself failed. Life is worth living because it is full of promise.--von Mises, Ludwig (1945). Bureaucracy
All this was literally true of America. In old Europe there still survived many checks inherited from the ancien régime. Even in the prime of liberalism, aristocracy and officialdom were struggling for the maintenance of their privileges. But in America there were no such remnants of the Dark Ages. It was in this sense a young country, and it was a free country. Here were neither industrial codes nor guilds. Thomas Alva Edison and Henry Ford did not have to overcome any obstacles erected by shortsighted governments and a narrow-minded public opinion.
Under such conditions the rising generation are driven by the spirit of the pioneer. They are born into a progressing society, and they realize that it is their task to contribute something to the improvement of human affairs. They will change the world, shape it according to their own ideas. They have no time to waste, tomorrow is theirs and they must prepare for the great things that are waiting for them. They do not talk about their being young and about the rights of youth; they act as young people must act. They do not boast about their own “dynamism”; they are dynamic and there is no need for them to emphasize this quality. They do not challenge the older generation with arrogant talk. They want to beat it by their deeds.
But it is quite a different thing under the rising tide of bureaucratization. Government jobs offer no opportunity for the display of personal talents and gifts. Regimentation spells the doom of initiative. The young man has no illusions about his future. He knows what is in store for him. He will get a job with one of the innumerable bureaus, he will be but a cog in a huge machine the working of which is more or less mechanical. The routine of a bureaucratic technique will cripple his mind and tie his hands. He will enjoy security. But this security will be rather of the kind that the convict enjoys within the prison walls. He will never be free to make decisions and to shape his own fate. He will forever be a man taken care of by other people. He will never be a real man relying on his own strength. He shudders at the sight of the huge office buildings in which he will bury himself.
Is this similar to ancient China where great effort was made to get into the bureaucracy but not other areas? Chinese men may have invented things but they were repressed by the status quo bureaucrats, the smartest people of course. Only when that idea reached the West did it take off.
I believe I read a review with some excerpts of this piece and what hit me is very similar to your thoughts. What he's describing is not a problem with meritocracy per se but the evidence that what we have is a system based entirely on credentialism rather than merit.
Life is unfair. We want it to be fair but it isn't. People are different due to nature and nurture and luck plays a much bigger role than we realize.
Luck; that's for sure. I had two fives and two queens, had been watching everyone's style of playing very closely, knew the other queen had to be very close on the final deal, and it wasn't.
Had to sign away the title to a '63 Corvair. To this day I'm still certain I didn't lose.
Lost a '63 Corvair? - Unsafe At Any Speed
OTOH, better than a Houseboat (Travis McGee anyone?)
It was a long time ago, but I believe Nader was enticed to destroy the Corvair because it posed a serious threat to Ford's Falcon. Yeah, Barnhill lost; Nader came out okay.
Travis McGee; read every one of those. Never did want a houseboat.
I’ve heard the line “lotteries are a tax on those who can’t do math” and, in main, must agree with it. However, I’ll take a flutter on a ticket every now and then with the idea that there is some entertainment value in the playing. And then when I hear someone’s scored one of the big prizes, I hope they have the savvy to use it right an not end up one of “those” stories. O tempora! O mores!
I used to think that too. But then I met my father-in-law. Grew up in Appalachia, started work in the coal mines at 14, drafted for the tail end of WW II, made it through the worst part of Korea, returned to Pennsylvania and worked a series of modest jobs at the local glass plant, right up until they closed it down and shipped all the jobs overseas. He was "early retired" then, and almost immediately had a major stroke, so probably just as well.
He had a weekly habit of buying one Powerball ticket down at the convenience store, every Friday night. And from then, until the drawing on Saturday night, he would imagine what it would be like to be a rich man, freed for good from the constraints of being nobody special in a declining town out in the sticks. He sat in his recliner and watched the drawing on TV; occasionally he'd win a little bit, but mostly not. And he'd quietly put down his dream without a fuss, because he knew it was just a pleasant dream. He knew the odds. And he'd do it all over again the next Friday.
24 hours of mental freedom for $2, isn't such a bad deal after all, is it?
I suppose it's worth asking "Then what do you think would be fair?" I'm betting people could poke a few holes in that without even stopping to catch their breath.
It would be impossible to discover antibiotics, vaccines, go to the moon, remain a free democracy... Without meritocracy. So you must wonder what his real agenda is.
I read somewhere that South Africa's train system is falling into disrepair. The "new" South Africans don't know how to maintain or repair it. Somewhere else I saw a panel of students at a South African university insisting that Mathematics was a white man's construct was colonial and should not be taught to blacks. As an aside in the video a white student wanted to debate that point and was forcefully informed that white opinions were not allowed. I think this is what you have when you do not have a meritocracy.
He thinks he discovered that life is unfair.
Not possible. From Wikipedia... Daniel Markovits (born August 4, 1969).
My parents were telling us kids "Life's not fair" since before he was born.
I remember once as a child complaining about my brother getting a bigger piece of cake than me. My mother responded by taking my cake away and giving it to my brother and telling me, "There, now you don't have any cake at all." It took a while, but it sunk in that my mother had no obligation to give me any cake at all and being grateful for what you were given rather than angry over what you were not is a better - but more difficult - way of looking at things. If you want to complain about life not being fair, you're going to have to complain when it's not fair in your favor just as much as when it's not fair against you.
Of course life is unfair. What you can do, however, is make the most of what you have. Maybe you aren't tall and handsome, but you can learn the piano or how to sing or how to tell jokes or ride a horse. There are a million things you can learn to do that are not about money. Everyone when hiking in the woods is equal. Money is helpful but does not determine what kind of friends you have or how much fun you have. A rich man does not have better books to read or music to listen to than you do.
Another thing you can ask yourself is if you want to work as hard as a lawyer trying to get partner or a doctor doing 6 hour surgeries. Do you? I didn't.
"Meritocracy leads to inequality" is tautologically true. That's kind of the point. People have different skills, interests, and cultural backgrounds. Picasso may have been a genius, but I would not want him doing my taxes.
In my experience, people aking these arguments come not from the perspective that it is wrong for some people to have power and others not to, but that the wrong people have power and this must be corrected with more power in the hands of the "correct" group of people. In all of their schemes, there needs to be come agency that enforces this "equality", which is itself powerful in its own way.
No matter how you define success, there is only one obstacle preventing you from obtaining it; your own ambition.
Whining and complaining about the injustices of life don’t put food on the table (unless you’re Al Sharpton).
Accomplishments, no matter how small, are their one reward and lead to further accomplishments.
I had 3 younger relatives who were headed down the wrong road. My advice and admonishment to each was: You’re a loser and you’re always going to be a loser .... until you decide not to be one. Two of them took that to heart and managed to get themselves turned around. The third, sadly, did not and OD’d at 32 years old.
The point is nobody decides your fate but you.
"Fair" is a vague and ambiguous word with no objective meaning. In the dictionary fair has around 25 different definitions.
As he states in his interview in Jacobin Magazine, Markovits is an avowed Marxist.