The tyranny of merit

Would you like to live in a perfectly meritocratic world?

In a meritocracy, people are rewarded for their contributions and innate capability. Their rewards are not arbitrary – they depend neither on privilege nor on fortune. On the face of it, nobody could argue against building a society based on this principle.

Yet, this perspective is tunneled. We often assess a meritocratic system by looking at whom it promotes to the top. But what about the people at the bottom – the slackers, the low performers and the underachievers? What does it mean to be the lowest performer in a meritocratic company?

In a truly meritocratic system, the people at the bottom deserve to be where they are. It isn’t because they are underprivileged, or because they are unfortunate, since privilege and fortune don’t exist in such a world. Seen from this perspective, would a wholly meritocratic system still be an ideal to aspire towards?

The values we admire often have a hidden dark side side, just as the ones we despise sometimes make life bearable.

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