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Monday 8 January 2024

In praise of meritocracy

Meritocracy is the system that rewards individuals based on their abilities and achievements, regardless of their social, cultural, or economic background. "The concept originates, at least by the sixth century BC, when it was advocated by the Chinese philosopher Confucius, who "invented the notion that those who govern should do so because of merit, not of inherited status."  Since that time it has evolved into an absolute ideal to promote a successful society that does not discriminate against individuals based on their race, sexual orientation or any other group identity, while encouraging personal development and effort. So why would any post suggest that meritocracy needs to be praised?
Of course, anyone reading this is well aware that meritocracy, the long-sought ideal has been all but subsumed by DEI, Diversity Equity and Inclusion. DEI upends meritocracy and prioritizes identity groups over merit. No longer do we choose the best person for the job based on their abilities, we now select based on a whole range of factors that define the so-called 'identity group' to which the individual belongs.

The idea is that by doing so we will have redressed the inequities that hold back some identity groups in our societies. Historical inequities due to race, gender, sexual orientation, or any one of a whole range of other factors. So instead of appointing an individual on their merit we should evaluate all the candidates and select the one most qualified by their identity group. When appointing someone not best suited for the job, we should assume he will either grow into the job, by magically developing the skills required. Or even if he doesn't, we accept the poorer performance on the basis that society has benefited by our having given this person an opportunity he would otherwise have not had. This trades off excellence for some theoretical societal benefit.

However, this is sophistry. Most of us know it, but like the crowd watching the naked emperor, we are all too weak to call it out. So let me do it. Society is NOT better off when we choose mediocrity over excellence. By failing to appoint the best person for the job, we destroy the driving force of social progress; incentive. People will not make the effort to improve themselves if there is no incentive to do so. Moreover, if less capable people are appointed to an organisation, the organisation too will suffer.

DEI has other issues too. Selecting one race in preference to any other is simply racist. Selecting one gender over any other is just sexist. Selecting one sexual orientation over any other is clearly discriminatory. So any analysis of DEI fails to justify its use. Yet over the past decade, it has infiltrated every aspect of many Western Societies. It has spread like a virus from academia, through education, media, politics, and business. Most organisations now have DEI officers and work to subjugate candidate merit in favour of identity groups. 

Despite its wide influence, DEI has had its problems of late. People are waking up, and fighting back. I expect this to continue. Several US states have legislated to prevent the use of DEI by corporations. Some large investment funds, perhaps as a consequence of the government edicts, have removed their DEI edicts. And most recently following a SCOTUS ruling Ivy League universities have come under fire for their discriminatory enrolment policies. 

Nevertheless, DEI remains a cancer that is eating away at the very fabric of our societies. The appointment of any person not best qualified to perform a job is the road to mediocrity. Yet I am sure we can all think of many senior and public appointments that can only be explained by some sort of  DEI selection. Sometimes the incompetence is blatant. 

Just look at the short list of senior appointments by the Biden administration and consider whether these people should have been appointed to their positions if it wasn't for DEI. Would they be the best suited for their jobs?

Of course one can never deny these people as having any merit, however, when the announcement of their jobs includes their identity group, it implies that the identity group played a significant role in their appointment.

Merit, the best person for the job, the one who will deliver results. It is not difficult. If you subjugate merit to ANYTHING else, you will get inferior results. Sometimes disastrous results. 

There is no greater poison in society than the abandonment of meritocracy.

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