The Problem with a Meritocracy

The problem is if you really believe in a society where those who merit to get to the top, get to the top, you’ll also, by implication … believe in a society where those who deserve to get to the bottom also get to the bottom and stay there.

Alain de Botton

In his talk A kinder, gentler philosophy of success de Botton mentions in passing the problem with a Meritocracy. While it fits as a lovely ideal, the single problem is that it doesn’t work. It implies that there is a level playing field to start, but there’s not – hence the Donald Trumps, Paris Hiltons and Kim Kardashians  – who are rich and famous not because of merit on their own or the parents.

The only way to have anything even vaguely resemble a Meritocracy is to have greater equality. We have polar opposites of inequality in most of the West. The gulf between rich and poor is growing and the spread more and more uneven as the middle gets squeezed down. While socialism does not reward or support an on merit system – it doesn’t take anything away. It creates a level playing field and ensures the fact that the society shares in the success that it made possible.

Watch the talk, it’s good and thought provoking.


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