Inequality, austerity are enemies of meritocracy

A smart economist named Tyler Cowen has written a book entitled Average Is Over, in which he foresees a world of advanced technology in which maybe 15 percent of the population will have the ability to keep up and grow rich, while everybody else falls behind.

He said new technology will make the population more legible to the job creators, so that those who have merit will rise more quickly, but those who make bad choices early in their lives will be marked forever.  He has no problem with this because, like many economists, he thinks anything is all right if it is the result of market forces.

I don’t have standing to criticize Cowen’s book because I haven’t read it, but I think that, as a general principle, the greater the degree of inequality and the fewer the openings at the top, the less likely that these openings will be allocated on the basis of merit.  Rather the gatekeepers will first make sure that their families and loved ones are taken care of, and then will look to do favors for those who can do favors in return.

Equality of opportunity entails risk for those at the top, but that risk is minimized when prosperity is widely shared, and people who miss out on one thing have a fair shot at something else.

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4 Responses to “Inequality, austerity are enemies of meritocracy”

  1. Bill Says:

    Very interesting take on the equality issue. I think it is a truism that the more the wealth and opportunity is shared the greater the wealth and opportunity for all even those at the top.


  2. EthnicKonflict Says:

    I don’t think it’s seriously possible to convince the rich to provide equality of opportunity. This must be won through political force on the part of the proletariat. Due to the law of large numbers and the philosophical nature of Capitalism, the rich as a block will behave selfishly, even going so far as to defend the purported sanctity of egotism.

    Also, income redistribution won’t happen unless the moneyed elite must somehow feel the struggle on the part of the proletariat, even in the case that success is purely based on chance modulated by genetics. In America today, for the great mass of people, intelligence explains 9% of the variation income, as does parental income. But of course, parental income explains some of intelligence. The point here is that for the average American not included in some ritzy enclave of power and money, luck is overwhelmingly the reason for success. And yet we resist income redistribution with great passion.


    • EthnicKonflict Says:

      P.S. If you are thinking about making the argument that a lot of success is determined by genetic tendency to work hard, then I will be the first to agree with you. However, our scientists are completely uninterested in attempting to quantify or measure hard-workingness.


    • philebersole Says:

      My argument is that the greater the scarcity of good jobs, the more likely it is that the gatekeepers will reserve these jobs for their loved ones and cronies.


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