The American meritocracy

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.

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