A few weeks ago I put up an excerpt from a book by Christopher Hayes, Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy, "a powerful and original argument that traces the roots of our present crisis of authority to an unlikely source: the meritocracy." In this book Hayes argues that meritocracy inevitably undermines social mobility as it increases inequality, creating a social order that perpetuates privilege, a self-absorbed elite, and institutional corruption. Below is an excerpt from a thought-provoking review by Samuel Goldman:
What’s to be done? One answer is to rescue meritocracy by providing the poor and middle class with the resources to compete. A popular strategy focuses on education reform. If schools were better, the argument goes, poor kids could compete on an equal footing for entry into the elite. The attempt to rescue meritocracy by fixing education has become a bipartisan consensus, reflected in Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” and Obama’s “Race to the Top.”
Hayes rejects this option. The defect of meritocracy, in his view, is not the inequality of opportunity that it conceals, but the inequality of outcome that it celebrates. In other words, the problem is not that the son of a postal clerk has less chance to become a Wall Street titan than he used to. It’s that the rewards of a career on Wall Street have become so disproportionate to the rewards of the traditional professions, let alone those available to a humble civil servant.
Hayes’s prescription, then, is simple: we should raise taxes on the rich and increase redistributive payments to the poor and middle class.