On the problems and dangers of meritocracy
As Alpheus points out, one of problems with fetishizing meritocracy is that it tends to create groups of legislators/politicians who have been reading, and believing, their own press clippings:
And sometimes it's just dumb luck that separates the conspicuously successful from everybody else. Be in the wrong place at the wrong time, fail to be in the right place at the right time, make a bad decision at what turns out to be the crucial moment and there goes your membership in "the best and the brightest." People like to downplay the role of luck in life, but as far as I can tell, there's no force more potent in shaping human destiny. It's not a fact we should think about too much, lest we despair, but there it is.
So one thing that bothers me about the meritocracy is the illusion that these people really are better than the rest of us. And what bothers me most of all -- and what's most dangerous for everyone -- is the fact that the meritocrats tend to share the illusion. They tend to believe that there's nothing odd or special about the lives they've lived. They tend to think that they must be exceptionally smart, or exceptionally diligent, or exceptionally decent. Worse, because "the best and the brightest" are almost automatically those people who have lived relatively trouble-free lives, they tend to overestimate the gentleness and manageability of the world.
In fact, it's almost axiomatic that they'll tend to overestimate either their own abilities or the ease with which the world's problems can be solved. Because things haven't been that hard for them, have they? It's the rare human being who can resist judging everyone's experience of life by his own.
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