Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The illusion of a meritocracy

I recommend a recent book by Malcolm Gladwell, "Outliers". In the book, Gladwell spends a lot of time making us appreciate that many if not most success stories are situational and not directly meritocratic. For example, Bill Gates' success was hugely influenced by luck and circumstance.

In fact I think that everything that we have done is circumstantial since we don't control our genes, our parents, or our environment. But while Gladwell's book has major political implications, we should also think about what we want the face of policy to be. In other words, the belief that we live in a meritocracy is an important one because it no doubts generates a self fulfilling prophecy for many people. Contrast that to a society in which nobody thinks they control their own fortunes and destiny. A belief in meritocratic outcomes is useful even if they are often not true.
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

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