April 25, 2010 11:54 PM   Subscribe

I remember reading a quote about meritocracy being the cruelest form of society, as the less intelligent or talented had no opportunity to better their lot. Or something along those lines. Could anyone point me towards the correct wording for that quote, or even similar ones?
posted by Soliloquy to Society & Culture (7 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Something about this reminds me of a TED talk by Alain de Botton. It may not be the quote you're looking for, but he starts talking about meritocracy around 6:00.
posted by gakiko at 12:15 AM on April 26, 2010

Was it old or recent? Sounds like something GK Chesterton might have argued 80-100 years ago, but I can't put my finger on a particular line.
posted by col_pogo at 1:22 AM on April 26, 2010

Might have been Michael Young (yes, Toby's dad) who coined the word - and did not mean it as a good thing, partly for the reasons you cite. His book is here.
posted by rhymer at 2:50 AM on April 26, 2010

One of the points Hayek makes in Road to Serfdom is that a market economy avoids that aspect of a meritocracy: you can get a job without being the most qualified person, basically by being cheap.
posted by dagnyscott at 4:37 AM on April 26, 2010

I was also coming in to suggest Michael Young and his Rise of the Meritocracy. I'm sorry, I don't have a copy handy, but it's the thesis of the entire book, though as a satire it is not expressed immediately. Here's a comment from Michael Young more recently which reiterates his thoughts -- perhaps you read this article?
posted by Dreadnought at 7:09 AM on April 26, 2010

(my wife had a conversion experience from reading Young's book -- I'm helping her with her missionary work)
posted by Dreadnought at 7:12 AM on April 26, 2010

This is an issue in Vonnegut's first novel
posted by Vic Morrow's Personal Vietnam at 7:45 AM on April 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

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