Tyler Cowen pointed to an article by business-school professor Luigi Zingales about meritocracy. I’d expect a b-school prof to support the idea of meritocracy, and Zingales does not disappoint.
But he says a bunch of other things that to me represent a confused conflation of ideas. Here’s Zingales:
America became known as a land of opportunity—a place whose capitalist system benefited the hardworking and the virtuous [emphasis added]. In a word, it was a meritocracy.
That’s interesting—and revealing. Here’s what I get when I look up “meritocracy” in the dictionary:
1 : a system in which the talented are chosen and moved ahead on the basis of their achievement
2 : leadership selected on the basis of intellectual criteria
Nothing here about “hardworking” or “virtuous.” In a meritocracy, you can be as hardworking as John Kruk or as virtuous as Kobe Bryant and you’ll still get ahead—if you have the talent and achievement. Throwing in “hardworking” and “virtuous” seems to me to an attempt (unconscious, I expect) to retroactively assign moral standing to the winners in an economic race.
See here for the rest of the story (including why I thought it was worth blogging on this in the first place).