The Economist, still laboring under its left-leaning Editor, has now decided to smear the United States for tolerating a virtuous meritocracy:
“Yet the man who invented the word (meritocracy) meant it as a pejorative term. In ‘The Rise of the Meritocracy’, published in 1958, Michael Young, a British sociologist and Labour Party activist, painted a futuristic picture of a dystopian Britain, where the class-based elitehad been replaced with a hierarchy of talent. Democracy was dispensed with. Clever children were siphoned into special schools and showered with resources. The demoralised talentless masses eventually revolted. The world’s starting to look a bit like Young’s nightmare vision. The top 1% have seen their incomes soar because of the premium that a globalised high-tech economy places on brainy people. An aristocracy that gambled its money away on ‘wine, women and song’ has been replaced by a business-school-educated elite whose members marry one another and spend their money wisely on Mandarin lessons and Economist subscriptions for their children.” ‘Repairing the rungs on the ladder’, Economist, February 9, 2013
According to this newsrag, the United States is the poster-child for this ‘virtuous meritocracy paradox’. The meritocratic wealthy of America now pass on privileges to their offspring much more effectively than Britain’s aristocracy was ever able to pass on such privileges to their dim-witted offspring.:
“Using one-generation measures of social mobility – how much a father’s relative income influences that of his adult son – America does half as well as Nordic countries and about the same as Britain and Italy, Europe’s least-mobile places. America is particularly exposed to the virtuous meritocracy because its poor are getting married in ever smaller numbers, leaving more children with single mothers short of time and money…American conservatives say the answer lies in boosting marriage; the left focuses on redistribution. This newspaper would sweep away tax breaks such as mortgage-interest deduction that help richer people, and target more state spending on the poor. But the main focus should be education policy.” ibid,
Running right through this polemic is the notion that government should intervene from the cradle to the grave to counter the advantages of those who rise to the top in a meritocratic society. This is socialism in its most dangerous form. To pursue equality rather than equality of opportunity is to condem any society to mediocrity.
Missing from the polemic is any notion that the route to wealth in a meritocracy is brain-power,and beauty, and not any other privilege. If those well-endowed with brains and beauty choose (wisely) to marry similarly advantaged partners, of course the genetic disposition of their offspring will far surpass that of the offspring of those who choose to have children, in or out of wedlock, with less brainy and less beautiful partners. That is a free choice and for government to intervene in such a process rightly would be condemned as a nightmare of Nazi-style eugenic manipulation.
What then is required to ensure that equality of opportunity is not snuffed out for the well-endowed children of less well-endowed parents, is an efficient capital market. For those well-endowed with meritocratic skills are already the fortunate recipients of high human capital. In an efficient market, they would be able to access loans to carry them through the education process that will fully tap their intellectual and other genetic advantages.
For this to occur, laissez-faire capitalism is the appropriate institutional mechanism. A free market in education, from kindergarten to graduate school will ensure that any country makes the best use of its talent. The wealth so-created is surely sufficient to provide an adequate social security blanket for those who undeservedly fall into poverty. Indeed, such a net predictably will be far more effective than the pitiful net provided by a country that has impoverished itself by the pursuit of equality of outcome – that is the Obama-dystopia that currently threatens the United States.