gordonmackay.net

Meritocracy

09/01/2021

My comment:


This is a very interesting subject and, I believe, goes to the heart of much of politics. There are a few things which aren't touched on here but I think are relevant. 


First, forget the few thousand billionaires in our global population of 7.5bn; these are the outliers and are a symptom of the same capitalist system which has done so much to reduce poverty. Even so, would anyone argue that these few extremely wealthy people haven't also worked hard, in addition to the talent and opportunities they've been given? Dominic Lawson wrote an excellent piece in The Times a few years ago pointing out that people have a tendency to focus on sports stars' raw talent rather than conceding how much work they put in. It's easier for people to accept other people are lucky rather than just hard working... perhaps this is why so many people who complain about wealth inequality see no contradiction in playing things like the National Lottery which creates huge inequality with zero merit... lottery: the clue's in the name.


I wonder how many people can run a mile in under eight minutes? But I'd guess many more people would be able to do so if they'd trained all their lives. Running is a fairly cheap sport to do. I think it's reasonable to state that many of the world's most talented people simply couldn't be bothered putting in the effort to make the very most of their talents. I certainly haven't, yet I'm reasonably happy to bumble on with a moderate standard of living. I work hard, but I also value my free time and time with my family.


Another thing is natural and absolute advantages are mentioned but not comparative advantage. This works to the benefit of two trading entities even when one has an absolute advantage. Wealthy people can profit by hiring staff, cleaners, nannies etc. They can also afford to pay those staff well, so if there is downward pressure on wages for such jobs, it's caused by the many people offering their services at low prices. This might sound tough, but it's got to be fair that people willing to work for less are given the opportunity to do so. In general, this will lift wages for all, even if there is greater disparity.


Most people born in countries like the UK have opportunities that they make a rational decision not to make the most of. This still gives the vast majority of them a standard of living that billions of people around the world could only dream of.