In his book, “The Meritocracy Trap” Prof Daniel Markovits argues in the book that the American economy has become grossly inequitable and misery- inducing precisely because of the success of the meritocracy, which has divided the economy into the haves and have- nots in an unprecedented, legacy students, manner. The meritocracy really do “earn” their privilege by accruing exorbitantly valuable skills and exercising them at relentless pace. The new 1% is far from the rich, leisured class of the 19th Century. Its members work with “ crushing intensity, exploiting their expensive educations in order to extract a return”. They then invest that return into their own children’s expensive educations, thereby reproducing an exceptionally anxious, entitled and high-skilled pseudo- aristocracy, which is killing upward mobility and eroding human welfare for poor and rich alike.
When Harvard released profiles of its applicants it turned out that 43% of the white students admitted to Harvard were either athletes ( a proxy for familial wealth or good connections)children of faculty members, or the children of major donors. The athletes accepted came from households earning more than. $500, 000 a year. This amounts to a sort of affirmative action for white kids. In total about 30% of all places at Harvard are effectively reserved for for the children of the rich, and this is what makes the profit for the university; the poorer folk are loss leaders. (based on an article by Eric Levitz in NY Magazine, 09/ 30/2019).
There is a debate about types of wealth: that earned by capital and that earned by labour ( actually running a company). It turns out that the real top 1% derive half their incomes from capital. But this is a minor point when it comes to the effect on society and its gross inequality.
I am sure that Epicurus would have counseled us to put all this straight, and quickly, before it destroys us.