Meritocracy

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By way of example, suppose that we are judging a bodybuilding contest. We all agree that Serge is aesthetically superior to Lou. And we know that, on average, bodybuilders from SuperElite Gym are aesthetically superior to bodybuilders at Elite Gym. This would not give us reason to award the trophy to Lou rather than Serge. No: Serge is more meritorious, so he deserves the trophy.

Facts about a class to which he happens to belong in this case, his gym are irrelevant. Therefore, justice requires that this be ignored in matters of hiring and compensation. We may look at things from the economic perspective. Firms in a perfectly competitive and efficient economy judge applicants on the basis of their productivity or expected productivity and pay them accordingly. The source of that productivity is irrelevant.

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In our actual economy, however, a diploma from an elite college provides a person with a wage premium on top of his productivity. In economics jargon, he extracts an economic rent , receiving income without commensurate contribution. These rents are not only unjust, but inefficient as well. While competition between adults is not only inevitable owing to scarcity but in many ways admirable, the sight of children forced to compete against each other is repugnant.

But that is precisely what is happening because of our failure to judge people on their merits: elite jobs require attending elite colleges, which in turn requires elite preparation in high school. That is, there is no equal opportunity. Even if it were true that elite colleges provided genuine benefit, access to those colleges turns largely on family circumstances like wealth and connections. Sometimes this wealth and these connections are used in a corrupt way, as this scandal shows. More often, though, they give the children of the rich a perfectly legal head start in the race for prosperity.

A ‘Meritocracy’ Is Not What People Think It Is

How might we move our society closer to the meritocratic ideal? I make two suggestions. First, we need a greater cultural focus on merit. Racial and gender animus exist, are impediments to a just and efficient economy, and ought to be eliminated. We must also ensure that physical appearance, religion, sexual tastes, and all other features irrelevant from the point-of-view of merit play no role in our distributive decisions. Greater focus on merit includes assessing people on their merits, rather than the merits of the classes to which they belong.

The Paradox of Meritocracy in Organizations | Gender Action Portal

Again, meritocrats do not object to a Yale graduate getting an elite job or a high salary— if that graduate is suitably meritorious. What we object to is the use of poor proxies for merit when assessing a person. Her merits, not those of the groups to which she belongs, are what count. Second, we must redouble our efforts to establish equal opportunity for all citizens.

Always imperfect, social mobility in the United States has deteriorated badly since the early s, a result of regressive tax policies and a failure to invest in public education and other forms of support for poor children. The result is that the United States is now one of the least mobile of the developed countries. If nothing else, we should use the college admissions scandal as an opportunity to think about and debate the desirability of meritocracy, and the extent to which we live in one.

For my part, I am convinced that justice is meritocracy, and that the meritocratic ideal will unite us anew.


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When merit was emphasized, research participants provided, on average, higher rewards to a male employee over an equally qualified female employee in the same job, with the same supervisor, and with equivalent performance evaluations. In short, emphasizing meritocratic values at the organizational level had a counterintuitive effect, which strengthened biases in favor of men over equally performing women. This is the "paradox of meritocracy", a situation where people can show greater levels of gender bias when they are in a context that emphasizes meritocracy.

Ironically, working in an environment that highlights meritocracy might make individuals believe that they are fair and objective, and as a result, make them more likely to display their biases. The authors suggest that promoting less managerial discretion, more accountability, and transparency in the workplace can mitigate these negative effects.

Three studies were conducted at a business school in a private university in the northeastern United States. A total of masters of business administration MBA students participated across the three studies. MBA students, with managerial experience, were asked to play the role of manager in a hypothetical organization.

The participants were randomly assigned to receive one of two different sets of organizational core values - one that emphasized meritocracy emphasizing fairness of compensation based on employee performance , and another set that did not emphasize meritocracy emphasizing regularity of evaluation and managerial autonomy.

All participants were given three employee profiles to examine - two profiles included one male and one female employee with similar performance evaluations, which formed the basis of the analysis. Based on the performance reviews, the participants were asked to decide the amount of bonus each employee should receive and to evaluate the employee on other measures including promotion, retention, and termination recommendations. The first experiment had participants male, 64 female, and 2 unknown and was divided into three sessions.

In this study, the third employee profile was male and had a lower performance score. This is my meritocratic measuring stick. It fits me perfectly and thus I am the greatest of you all. Meritocracy is often a fancy word for fascism.

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Our eugenics program proclaims I am of greater merit than you and that is why I lead and you follow. In meritocracy only those who believe they are the most deserving rule. July 8 Hook up with Tendoroni Titty Tuesday