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  1. Last 7 days
    1. In our case, a system intended to expand equality has become an enforcer of inequality. Americans are now meritocrats by birth. We know this, but because it violates our fundamental beliefs, we go to a lot of trouble not to know it.

      Class stratification helps to create not only racist policies but policies that enforce the economic stratification and prevent upward (or downward) mobility.

      I believe downward mobility is much simpler for Black Americans (find reference to OTM podcast about Obama to back this up).

      How can we create social valves (similar to those in the circulatory system of our legs) that help to push people up and maintain them at certain levels without disadvantaging those who are still at the bottom and who may neither want to move up nor have the ability?

  2. Jun 2021
    1. <small><cite class='h-cite via'> <span class='p-author h-card'>Jeet Heer</span> in Freedom to Teach in North Carolina - The Time of Monsters (<time class='dt-published'>06/17/2021 09:41:33</time>)</cite></small>

    2. Michael Young coined the term,[1] formed by combining the Latin root "mereō" and Ancient Greek suffix "cracy", in his essay to describe and ridicule such a society, the selective education system that was the Tripartite System, and the philosophy in general.

      Meritocracy was coined to describe and ridicule a society and its selective education system.

    1. <small><cite class='h-cite via'> <span class='p-author h-card'>Jeet Heer</span> in Freedom to Teach in North Carolina - The Time of Monsters (<time class='dt-published'>06/17/2021 09:41:33</time>)</cite></small>

    2. Markovits’s modest policy recommendations for compressing American meritocracy fall well short of a comprehensive agenda. But the value of The Meritocracy Trap is not to give us a roadmap out of our current circumstances; it is to allow us to see our current situation for what it really is. For better or worse, meritocracy is the water all of us swim in. We implicitly accept its values, practices, arguments, and assumptions because they govern our everyday lives. This book is an opportunity for all of us to step out of the water and perhaps conclude that the meritocracy we have built is failing us.

      Definitely an interesting take-away.

      Meritocracy is the water all of us swim in.

      Noticing this as a first principle is certainly important.

    3. We should favor ways of organizing our social and economic life so things that are socially productive are more nearly equally rewarded. And we should pick ways of making things, ways of delivering services, ways of running schooling that don’t skew achievement so far at the very top. … We could organize finance so that the middle of the skill distribution, the old home loan officer, is the dominant worker. We could organize medicine in such a way that the difference between the specialist doctor, the nurse practitioner, and the pharmacist is relatively small and most health care is delivered by people in the middle of the skill distribution. ... The core thing to do is to find policies both in education and the labor market that recompress the distribution of economic roles.

      This sounds like a positive move, but will require a lot of government regulation/oversight.

      Placing caps on runaway capitalism and meritocracy could be required to keep us from killing ourselves.

    4. Markovits wants to move us away from a polarized meritocracy — one characterized by a massive skill-and-reward gap between elite workers and other workers — to a compressed meritocracy defined by broad, shared prosperity between mid-skilled workers.

      Think about this and the ultimate consequences. Polarized verses compressed meritocracy sounds intriguing, but could also be the wrong framing or working at the wrong issue.

    5. You have to be right that the best society is one where people get ahead by being good at things that are worth doing.

      Quote from Daniel Markovitz

      This does raise the point of whether or not some of the things elites are doing is actually good or productive for society. Many are only working at privatizing profits and socializing losses which can be phenomenally caustic to society as well.

    6. Meritocracy harms the elite as well. Life for the meritocratic elite is dominated by work. Substantial numbers of elites report that their work interferes with their health, prevents them from forming strong relationships with their children, gets in the way of good relationships with their spouses, and even makes it harder to have a satisfying sex life.
    7. The impact of this exclusion itself is impossible to measure, but increasing meritocratic inequality has coincided with the opioid epidemic, a sharp increase in “deaths of despair,” and an unprecedented fall in life expectancy concentrated in poor and middle-class communities.

      Are these all actually related to meritocratic inequality? What other drivers might there be?

    8. Diminishing social mobility excludes the middle class from the hope of achieving the American Dream.

      Do we actually need social mobility?

      Social mobility and the goods it can purchase can be a useful social motivation.

      However, social mobility for the poorest amoungst us would be good, but how much additional marginal good does society derive from continued social mobility of the middle and upper classes continuing to gain wealth and moving up?

      Perhaps there's a myth of social mobility confounding the issue with the myth of meritocracy as well.

      Certainly the idea of raw capitalism without caps is at play as well. Could providing better governmental oversight of this be a helpful factor for society? (At least American society at the moment? As international competition may drive other broader problems vis-a-vis other pieces of global domination...)

    9. Meritocratic inequality works like this: First, elite workers acquire super-skilled jobs, displacing middle-class labor from the center of economic production. Then, those elite workers use their massive incomes to monopolize elite education for their children, ensuring that their offspring are more qualified to dominate high-skilled industries than their middle-class counterparts. The cycle continues, generating what Markovits calls “snowball inequality”: a compounding feedback loop that amplifies economic inequality, dramatically suppresses social mobility, and creates a “time divide” between an elite class whose members work longer and longer (due to a higher demand for their talents) and an increasingly idle middle class (whose work has been made redundant).

      This all seems logical and certainly plays a part, but I still think it's more complicated. This is a feedback "engine" that has been installed since ~1970 and exacerbated by the 1980s.

      There's likely still a leisure class above this compounding the effects.

    10. This leads us to Markovits’s second critique of the aspirational view: The cycle that produces meritocratic inequality severely harms not only the middle class but the very elite who seem to benefit most from it.

      What if we look at meritocracy from a game theoretic viewpoint?

      Certainly there's an issue that there isn't a cap on meritocratic outputs, so if one wants more wealth, then one needs to "simply" work harder. As a result, in a "keeping up with the Jones'" society that (incorrectly) measures happiness in wealth, everyone is driven to work harder and faster for their piece of the pie.

      (How might we create a sort of "set point" to limit the unbounded meritocratic cap? Might this create a happier set point/saddle point on the larger universal graph?)

      This effect in combination with the general drive to have "power over" people instead of "power with", etc. in combination with racist policies can create some really horrific effects.

      What other compounding effects might there be? This is definitely a larger complexity-based issue.

    11. Fifty, 60, 70 years ago, you could tell how poor somebody was by how hard they worked.
    12. A Harvard Business Review survey found that 62 percent of high-earning individuals work over 50 hours a week, more than a third work over 60 hours a week, and one in 10 work over 80 hours a week. According to Markovits, elites today work an average of 12 more hours per week than middle-class workers (the equivalent of 1.5 additional workdays).

      This may be the case for high-earners, but where do these people sit with respect to the higher elite or "leisure class"?

      Are these hard working high-earners a new class of people that has emerged that aren't the previous elite of the mid-1900s?

      What effect does the rise of finacialization (versus manufacturing or service sectors) since the 1970's have on this shift? Did these high-earners arise out of a hole in the market to service the elites on the highest rung up to make their wealth grow faster?

      There seems to be a hole in this argument with respect to the prior quote:

      Fifty, 60, 70 years ago, you could tell how poor somebody was by how hard they worked. Today, that relationship has been completely reversed. Elites work for a living. They work harder than they used to. They work harder in terms of brute hours than the middle class on average, and they get most of their income by working.

    13. Markovits’s analysis leads him to the opposite conclusion: Rising inequality is the product of meritocracy itself.
    14. Some argue that the American elite is functionally an old-fashioned aristocracy that owes its income to nepotism and opportunism. Others argue that the elite is functionally an oligarchy that owes its rising income to a shift away from labor and toward capital. According to this view, elites don’t even need nepotism — they are using preexisting wealth and inheritance to rebuild an old-fashioned feudal class.

      So much here to unpack...

    15. Aspirational critics tend to believe that rising inequality since the 1970s is the product of insufficient meritocracy.

      It's surely not the only cause of rising inequality. What other factors are there? What proportions do they contribute? Which one is the Pareto factor?

    16. At its core, The Meritocracy Trap is a comprehensive — and rather scathing — critique of the aspirational view. Markovits argues that meritocracy itself is the problem: It produces radical inequality, stifles social mobility, and makes everyone — including the apparent winners — miserable. These are not symptoms of systemic malfunction; they are the products of a system that is working exactly as it is supposed to.
    17. The “American Dream” is itself a meritocratic notion of rising from rags to riches on hard work and talent alone.

      What other common pieces make up the American dream? This is surely one of the deepest roots which allows others like "buying and owning one's own home".

      Freedom certainly makes a play, but there are certainly freedoms we give up and others that are impinged upon to actually live and exist here with respect to the rest of society.

    18. There is also a principled critique of meritocracy, although it is far less common. Principled critics argue that any society where socioeconomic reward is based on the principle of “merit” itself is inherently unjust. For them, the ideal of meritocracy is flawed and must be replaced either by radical egalitarianism or a return to aristocracy.

      principled critique of meritocracy

    19. It posits that the problem with our current system isn’t the ideal of meritocracy itself but our collective failure to live up to that ideal. If only we could replace the forces of aristocracy, oligarchy, and corruption with a genuine meritocracy, then we would have a just and equal society.

      A definition of the aspirational critique of meritocracy.

    20. This is what we can think of as the aspirational critique of meritocracy.

      Exploring the idea of aspirational critique of meritocracy is worthwhile.

      The fact that everyone gets up in arms in a case like the college admissions scandal of 2019, but not at other forms is intriguing.

    21. While the term “meritocracy” was first coined just over 60 years ago, it has become so deeply ingrained into our collective ethos that it is hard to imagine a just society organized any other way.

      Meritocracy, despite having been coined in 1958, has become deeply ingrained into the American collective ethos.

      Aside from democracy, many words with the -cracy (or even -crat) endings have politically charged or negative connotations. Meritocracy, bureaucracy, plutocracy, bureaucrat, etc. What other examples are there? Does this thesis hold up over a larger corpus of words?

    1. for some analysts this myth of meritocracy entrenches gender and racial inequality. 

      I want to explore this idea a bit. Resources, citations? Which analysts?

    2. You could note that the word was coined by sociologist Michael Young who described it as a new form of entrenched inequality.
    3. That the belief that the United States is a meritocracy is an inherently racist or sexist belief, or that the United States was created by members of a particular race or sex for the purpose of oppressing members of another race or sex.”

      the United States is a meritocracy

      We've liked to tell ourselves this myth, but it's demonstrably untrue.

  3. Feb 2021
    1. To achieve a position in the top tier of wealth, power and privilege, in short, it helps enormously to start there. “American meritocracy,” the Yale law professor Daniel Markovits argues, has “become precisely what it was invented to combat: a mechanism for the dynastic transmission of wealth and privilege across generations.”

      Really good interview with Markovits and Sam Harris on the topic on meritocracy.

    1. Some people "get" the idea of systemic privilege and ask "But what can I do?" My answer is, you can use unearned advantage to weaken systems of unearned advantage. I see white privilege as a bank account that I did not ask for, but that I can choose to spend. People with privilege have far more power than we have been taught to realize, within the myth of meritocracy. Participants can brainstorm about how to use unearned assets to share power; these may include time, money, energy, literacy, mobility, leisure, connections, spaces, housing, travel opportunities. Using these assets may lead to key changes in other behaviors as well, such as paying attention, making associations, intervening, speaking up, asserting and deferring, being alert, taking initiative, doing ally and advocacy work, lobbying, campaigning, protesting, organizing, and recognizing and acting against both the external and internalized forms of oppression and privilege.
    2. Think about why U.S. people, especially White people, have trouble seeing systemically. Explain the myth of meritocracy: that the unit of society is the individual and that whatever one ends up with must be whatever that individual wanted, worked for, earned, and deserved. Why do you think this myth survives so successfully, suppressing knowledge of systemic oppression and especially of its "up-side,"systemic privilege?
    3. I repeatedly forgot each of the realizations on this list until I wrote it down. For me, white privilege has turned out to be an elusive and fugitive subject. The pressure to avoid it is great, for in facing it I must give up the myth of meritocracy.

      We need more research and details on the idea of the American myth of meritocracy.

  4. Dec 2020
    1. While SoulCycle was promoting a culture of community and belonging, it was also serving privileged adults indulging their worst impulses.

      Sounds like rule by a petty tyrant or maybe a current sitting president.... is it something in our culture that lets us do this? Whatever happened to the idea of meritocracy?

  5. Sep 2020
    1. To cultivate an idea meritocracy, they developed an app called a “dot collector” which enables all employees to rate each other along many different dimensions, ranging from “knowledgeability” to communication style. Over time, the app builds up a picture of each employee’s “believability” on different issues. This enables Bridgewater to understand where expertise lies within the company in addition to the hierarchical authority easily understood on an org chart.

      Bridgewater created a "dot collector" app that collects employee ratings of others across different dimensions to get to a "idea meritocracy"

  6. Sep 2019
    1. Liberals are always slow to realize that there can be friendly, idealistic people who have little use for liberal values.

      So idealistic with other values?

    2. identity alone should neither uphold nor invalidate an idea

      Except ideas have always been structured by identify. Perhaps universal ideas might be better seen as the identity politics of a privilege that doesn't appreciate being interrogated.

    3. Our goal shouldn’t be to tell children what to think. The point is to teach them how to think so they can grow up to find their own answers.

      How many generations have passed mistaking this solution as progress?

    4. The teaching of civics has dwindled since the 1960s—a casualty of political polarization

      So the lack of civics lamented above is not caused by the global cultural studies that happened? There could be both, right?

    5. festooned with all the authoritarian excess of the new progressivism

      Do the policies and practices that shape disadvantaged lives come festooned (eg, drug sentencing laws)? Or do they seep out with a colder, darker, less obvious rhetoric?

    6. an idea of education based on real meri

      Please define this "real merit".

    7. That pragmatic genius for which Americans used to be known and admired, which included a talent for educating our young—how did it desert us?

      Known by who for educating who? This is the most ridiculously reductionist and nostalgic lament in the entire piece.

    8. An extensive survey of American political opinion published last year by a nonprofit called More in Common found that a large majority of every group, including black Americans, thought “political correctness” was a problem.

      This is where it gets really interesting. I'd have to explore what branches out from here, but the term "political correctness" is not really just one thing that everyone agrees on, and from where I'm sitting, mostly seems to arise around areas where people who historically have had less of a voice start having one that disturbs established POVs.

    9. security

      Wait, how does meritocracy value security?

    10. He had picked this moment to render his very first representational drawing, and our hopes rose.

      I like an alternate theory: their kid had been making representational drawings for a long time, but purposely obscuring it until the revelation could make the biggest impact.

    11. On that freezing sidewalk, I felt a shudder of revulsion at the perversions of meritocracy. And yet there I was, cursing myself for being 30th in line.

      This is a great juxtaposition of the trap the author and so many upper-middle-class people find themselves in.

    12. children into overworked, inauthentic success machines

      A worry I have for sure...

    13. stay married

      Ahhh...so THIS is why we stay married!

    14. True meritocracy came closest to realization with the rise of standardized tests in the 1950s

      Interesting, I'm ready to buy that the post-WWII period had the biggest opening to education in the USA — tho far from truly open or meritocratic and definitely unevenly distributed in many ways, including between K12 and higher ed — but I'm not sure I'd put standardized tests first in a list of reasons for the opening. I'd want to hear more about that.

  7. Oct 2017
  8. Jul 2016
  9. Jun 2016
    1. The War on Stupid People

      Lots of difficult things with this text, including the title. The obsession on measurable “smarts” is an important topic and the possible measures to prevent this obsession from impacting (US) society make sense. But it’s really tricky to discuss intelligence in such ways. Part of the text reads as further essentialisation of measured intelligence. Yet it sounds clear from the possible measures described that this form of intelligence takes at least part of its meaning in a given social context.

      Maybe the deep issue with a text like this is that it’s hard to get people to shift from one consistent mindframe (paradigm, episteme) to another. More specifically, it’s hard to discuss intelligence in a context where the concept has become so loaded.

      Would have lots more to say about this from my parents’ experiences (an occupational therapist who spent a career with people labelled as having “intellectual disabilities” and a psychopedagogue who worked in “special education” with students from a low-income neighbourhood who had “learning disabilities”). Maybe later.

    2. When Michael Young, a British sociologist, coined the term meritocracy in 1958, it was in a dystopian satire. At the time, the world he imagined, in which intelligence fully determined who thrived and who languished, was understood to be predatory, pathological, far-fetched. Today, however, we’ve almost finished installing such a system, and we have embraced the idea of a meritocracy with few reservations, even treating it as virtuous.

      The pullquote Audrey Watters used. Sociologists frequently point out the multiple issues of the concept of “meritocracy”, often in connection with education, but rarely use it to discuss “intelligence”.

  10. Oct 2015