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News Is it possible in this world to create a meritocracy?

  1. Jul 25, 2009 #1
    ...or is human society always bound to a supply-and-demand system?

    I haven't thought about the issue much, but here is one quick example that comes to mind.
    I think many here would argue that celebrities are one of the most overpaid people in the world. Not all, but many receive such fame and wealth through luck rather than merit (I know plenty of people around me who are blessed with beautiful looks and a great voice, but they were never given the opportunities).

    It seems that capitalism is the closest we have to meritocracy, but can the flaws of capitalism be fixed somehow through the proper engineering of society?

    I'm sure "government regulation" isn't the answer to celebrities' mass earnings.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 25, 2009 #2
    Also, which professions/jobs deserve to receive more reward (in this case, money)?
     
  4. Jul 25, 2009 #3
    Supply and demand and capitalism are forms of a meritocracy. The issue is determining what is possessed of "merit". Supply and demand creates a rather natural meritocracy based on what society apparantly wants/demands.
     
  5. Jul 26, 2009 #4
    Do you mean per practitioner or as a whole? We as a society probably spend more on teachers than celebrities, but the former group greatly outnumbers the latter, so each A-list celebrity gets a bigger piece of the pie. Compare how many students a teacher can effectively teach with how many people a celebrity can entertain.

    We also have the second question of whether money is the sole reward of a profession. Different jobs give bonuses like social status, power, or just plain satisfaction. Money is just a means of exchange. People exchange the fruits of their labor (or inheritance) for what someone else has to offer. If one profession doesn't provide what other people are willing to pay for, it won't make much money.
     
  6. Jul 26, 2009 #5

    j93

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    Capitalism in America is not a form of a meritocracy given the prevalence of trust fund babies and nepotism in business where a CEO could be the family member(son of an owner in a publicly traded company) and be propped up by competent people who get paid much less than the CEO. Doesnt sound like a meritocracy to me.

    Outside of supply and demand politics have a horrible meritocracy track record when considering the success of the Bush and Kennedy Family (John Jr and George Walker would of likely been in the bottom of the socio-economic ladder and likely couldnt make it past being a city council member).

    A real supply and demand meritocracy requires everyone to start at the same place and compete to make it to the top. I cant imagine such a thing existing mostly because its not human nature, those with resources want to use those resources to give a large boost to their offspring and family whether it be in America or China.
     
  7. Jul 27, 2009 #6
    I was not implying that it is a perfect meritocracy. Aside from your complaint there is also the fact that what people "want" or "demand" is not necessarily what is "best". It all depends on how you define 'merit'. You will probably find though that the beneficiaries of nepotism and trust funds are exceptions rather than the rule. These people tend to draw more attention that the guy/gal with their head down nose to the grindstone.
     
  8. Jul 27, 2009 #7

    j93

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    This is likely due to the distribution of wealth rather than the system where the top 15% makes so much more than the rest of the population. If only 15% benefit than they are not a big enough % of the population to be the rule only the exception.

    I just cant imagine our system being anything close to a meritocracy, what we have now is the equivalent of millions of people playing a game of monopoly in which a certain amount of people start with most of the board and money and others start with varying amounts most with only a few dollars. The fact that someone can come out on top in the end despite starting from nothing is more of a testament to how great that person is.

    The system is such that you have to be extraordinarily great to be born in the bottom and reach anywhere near the top and be extraordinarily stupid to go from being born on the top and drop to the average. A meritocracy has to have equal downward mobility as upwards.
     
  9. Jul 27, 2009 #8
    Nepotism happens at all levels of society. There are also certain individuals and cultures that do their best to pay for everything for their children to become as successful as possible so you may find many people with parents that are rather low on the social ladder but have a fully paid ride through a rather nice college.
     
  10. Jul 27, 2009 #9
    The US does pretty good on the meritocracy scale. It is possible to move up quite well here. Of course there are the "born on third base and they think they hit a triple" types. You always get that anywhere, but the US does fairly well rewarding those not born on third base who are willing to work hard.
     
  11. Jul 28, 2009 #10

    j93

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    It is still a resource problem at heart and if nepotism occurs at all levels that just means the US is even farther from being meritocratic as every act of nepotism stunts upward/downward mobility.

    As long as people are born in the third base and there is not equal amount of downward mobility as upward the US isnt anything more than minimally meritocratic.

    The idea of a meritocracy is a pipe dream since it goes against the human impulse to use resources to give their offspring a boost and help those that look like them.
     
  12. Jul 28, 2009 #11

    russ_watters

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    If that's the definition, why would we even want a meritocracy? An equal amount of upward and downward mobility means no progress overall! Right now, most westerners do better than or equal to their parents.
     
  13. Jul 28, 2009 #12
    I believe you are still suffering from a need to consider only your perfect meritocracy a meritocracy. Perfection will not happen, sorry, so saying anything less than perfect is not acceptable is rather unrealistic.
     
  14. Jul 28, 2009 #13

    j93

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    Its just the definition of a meritocracy - 1 : a system in which the talented are chosen and moved ahead on the basis of their achievement 2 : leadership selected on the basis of intellectual criteria.
    Downward Mobility is necessary because it shows that nepotism is not affecting the system and it allows for upward mobility.
    This is due to the economic pattern because it is not true in the relative sense. If the economy continues as it is do you believe it would still be true.
     
  15. Jul 28, 2009 #14

    j93

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    Im not saying perfection is necessary im just saying that we are only minimally a meritocracy. If families werent allowed to will money over to family members we would be a greater democracy but nobody would go for this.

    I feel this whole idea of a meritocracy is used more by those that wildman describes as being the kind who believe they hit a triple despite being born in third base. The power of networking is a testament to this unmeritocratic behavior that is common.

    As i said anything other than a minimally meritocratic society is a pipe dream.
     
  16. Jul 28, 2009 #15

    D H

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    Chosen by whom, and by what criteria?
     
  17. Jul 28, 2009 #16

    russ_watters

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    What I objected to was the word equal.
    I can't make any sense of that. Typically, "relative" means that you define progress in terms of the average. In other words, you define "rich" and "poor" in such a way as the fractions of rich and poor are always the same. But in an absolute sense, people have bigger houses, more cars, more toys, etc. than they did, say, 40 years ago.
    Improper question: the economy is cyclical. There is no such thing as "continues as it is"... unless you mean continues as it has over the past 100 years, then "continues as it is", yes, it will continue to rise, cycle to cycle/decade to decade. Because of the depth of this recession, it really may be 10-15 years and two cycles until we reach the level of the last peak, but we certainly will again.
     
  18. Jul 28, 2009 #17
    What then is the point of a meritocracy if one can not fully utilize the benefits of one's merit? You seem to be using a definition of meritocracy that benefits those with lesser rather than greater merit. What does a person with great merit do with their benefits? They can not give their children better education. They apparently ought not do anything at all for their children that would increase their likelihood to succeed over the lowest common denominator. They can not help out their friends. Probably they oughtn't help out their spouse either unless perhaps their spouse is a stay at home parent. Of course a stay at home parent may give an advantage to their children that the children of parents who can not stay at home with their children are unable to provide.
     
  19. Jul 29, 2009 #18
    By that definition, I sure wouldn't want a meritocracy, and the U.S. certainly isn't one.

    I wouldn't want any economic system in which some authority "chooses" anyone for anything. I prefer a free economy, where some may benefit from their talent, some don't, but the results are the natural results of freedom, not some government plan to control society.
     
  20. Jul 29, 2009 #19

    mheslep

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    That assumes a fixed size of the pie. Visibly it is not. The hundreds of millions of Chinese that moved up from squalid poverty in the last decades did not so because hundreds of others moved down into it.
     
  21. Jul 29, 2009 #20

    j93

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    The basic point is that your statement about offspring being better off than their parents is likely not a statement due to a meritocracy but an upward trend in the general economy.
    As you said the economy is cyclical and I dont think we should pat each other about how great a meritocracy we have as the economy booms unless we want to blame the economy busting on how meritocratic we are.
     
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