Guest post: What’s so great about a meritocracy anyway?

Dear readers:  MrCyriac has gone to Kenya for holidays. In his absence, he asked me (mexindian) to keep you entertained. Conceding defeat pre-emptively, I anyway give it a go:

So let’s talk about meritocracy, defined as: “the holding of power by people selected on the basis of their ability”. Let’s step over the quagmire of prejudice in the selection of “the best candidate” in order to focus on something slightly more interesting. For the sake of argument, let’s assume we are capable and willing to hire the best candidate we can find.

What is the benefit to this hiring practice? One could say it’s fairest, it maximizes efficiency for the hiring company, it maximizes efficiency in society by forcing incompetent employees to “be better”, among others. Each of these benefits could also be discussed in and of themselves. But again, let’s bypass these discussions in order to allow me to present my two-part point: 1. Merit is not merited, 2. Getting a job because you are “better” than another candidate doesn’t necessarily guarantee society more happiness.

There is abundant evidence claiming that Socio-Economic Status (SES) may determine what kind of a life you will have, especially if you are on the low end of the SES scale. To stay focused, I postulate to you, dear reader, the following question, “what have you done to merit your position?” Sure you’ve worked hard, but truly that much harder than others? Kudos if you have, I’m guessing not. I don’t intend to be confrontational, I just want to provide food for introspection. Everyone knows that “the rich get richer, and the poor get poorer”, but just take a second to think if you would allow incompetence in your workplace for the sake of socioeconomic (or any other) equity.

My second point is quite simple really. Just because you’re “better” than someone else at some job doesn’t mean that you should be doing that job. How many musicians do you know that had to get a “real job”? How many people that got that “omg this is awesome!!” job quickly turn into Monday-Morning-Hating Zombies (MMHZ) quite possibly because they also have to work with other MMHZ? In this competitive world, merit has become our only currency, and we are told that capitalizing on that will maximize our happiness. This seems to be a rule obeyed by all but the luckiest or craziest among us. This probably has something to do with the fact that it’s more lucrative to be a rather useless medical doctor than a relatively excellent street-sweeper, but does that economic disparity compensate for the fact that you are spending most of your waking hours doing what doesn’t necessarily fill you? Research says that “as long as you’re not poor-poor, money don’t make you happy“.

Picture by Carl Richards

Conclusion… let’s make “meritocracy” a thing of the past, and evaluate people based on their passion. Other people have said this before, more eloquently than me, so I leave you with those words:

I will do strongly before the sun and moon whatever inly rejoices me and the heart appoints.

-Self-Reliance, Ralph Waldo Emerson
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