We’re hearing a lot about America’s “meritocracy” as the 2012 election campaign gets rolling. Of course, there’s no such thing. And I doubt there ever was. As the Good Book says, ” the race is not to the swift nor the battle to the strong, but time and chance decide all things.”
Time and chance at best. Life is the ultimate gamble. And in America, the elite have made sure over many generations that the deck is stacked in their favor.
As even the most naive American will agree, “it’s not what you know but who you know that matters.”
The smartest thing you can do to get ahead is pick rich and powerful parents.
Debunking the meritocracy myth in his New York Times column yesterday, Nobel prizewinner Paul Krugman says:
Americans are much more likely than citizens of other nations to believe that they live in a meritocracy. But this self-image is a fantasy: as a report in The Times last week pointed out, America actually stands out as the advanced country in which it matters most who your parents were, the country in which those born on one of society’s lower rungs have the least chance of climbing to the top or even to the middle.
And if you ask why America is more class-bound in practice than the rest of the Western world, a large part of the reason is that our government falls down on the job of creating equal opportunity.
But a lot of Americans would tar and feather you for pointing out this oh-so-obvious fact. They cling to the fantasy of “a level playing field” where individuals win or lose depending on their ability. And they live in hope that they will one day enjoy the abundant fruits of victory.
To examine the absurdity of this fantasy – which is the lynchpin of the current Republican campaign – I invite you to read Krugman’s column. I couldn’t have said it better myself.