Meritocracy is not broken… Society is.

Uncle Ben gets meritocracy so very wrong in his recent Baccalaureate Speech at Princeton. Meritocracy, at least in the truest sense, holds no value for nepotism, station in life or “luck”. The Capitalistic society that used to be that which governed economics in the United States fifty or so years ago relied pretty heavily on nepotism and societal placement for one’s upward mobility, but once one found themselves in a place of higher power, either in the private or public sectors, one’s skill and aptitude determined their success while in that office. We’ve reached a point where our elites are generally trained at institutions such as the hallowed halls of Princeton, and because the air in these places is so rarified, it can be assumed while breathing it that thou art blessed, and ye shall be demanded upon as much has been given to you, as is your station in life.

The problem with this, though, is that the verbiage, as noted by Ben, Brad and Francis during the podcast, is deliberately divisive, and intentionally creates an anchor point in the minds of those attending the speech for the rest of the socialism that has become pervasive in our political landscape over the last fifty and more years. Hard work shall not be rewarded, for hard work in support of the greater good, not thyself, is reward enough. Thou shalt benefit only when those around you benefit, and your skill and labor is not to benefit you lest it benefit the greater good before you.

We are not a socialistic society. We, as the human race, were able to prove decisively that communism does not function well enough in practice to implement without being able to meet the needs of the entire population absent the labor of those providing the labor, for when some provide the labor required to support the whole, the whole suffers at the hands of human nature, which seeks the least resistance to subsistence. People will only work hard enough to benefit themselves when communism/socialism is inflicted upon them because to do more than what is required to subsist oneself does not reward the self. This is the one piece of humanity that those who subscribe to socialism/communism have never been able to work around. Human Nature is absolute, and it will always be the downfall to socialism every time it is fully implemented.

This is why meritocracy works. The unfortunate part is that meritocracy is also afflicted with its dose of human nature. Eventually those who are able to earn wealth and/or power will want to find a way to pass that which they’ve earned onto their progeny, or someone who will best see to its continued growth and success. The problem with our society isn’t that meritocracy is flawed… Our problem, as a society is that we no longer pressure those around us to live by the ethics we would rather everyone govern their own lives with. We’ve forgotten what it means to live in a society where you don’t have to worry about everyone around you looking to take advantage of every situation they’re in, regardless of ethics because our society no longer holds a higher value for those who do the right thing because its the right thing to do, especially when no one is looking.

Do not blame what once worked so well to build the America we’ve since lost. Instead blame that which has weakened our society to the point where it is no longer an intelligent thing to trust one’s neighbor with the temporary oversight of one’s family, wealth and property; blame our societal loss of a moral and ethical compass.

And, thus, blame Uncle Ben.

The time stamp in the podcast episode I’m referring to is 10:00. Link to the episode is below, as well as the RSS feed for the podcast.

Coffee and Markets – 03JUN13

Subscribe to Coffee and Markets Podcast