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Or Why Elites Fail.  In “The Nation” there is a lovely piece by Christopher Hayes author of “Twilight of the Elites: America after Meritocracy” about how meritocracies turn inevitably into oligarchies.  Here is a flavour.

But this ideal, appealing as it may be, runs up against the reality of what I’ll call the Iron Law of Meritocracy. The Iron Law of Meritocracy states that eventually the inequality produced by a meritocratic system will grow large enough to subvert the mechanisms of mobility. Unequal outcomes make equal opportunity impossible. The Principle of Difference will come to overwhelm the Principle of Mobility. Those who are able to climb up the ladder will find ways to pull it up after them, or to selectively lower it down to allow their friends, allies and kin to scramble up. In other words: “Who says meritocracy says oligarchy.”

He ascribes this not to simple self delusion but to how the ones at the top deny the opportunities they enjoyed to others thereby fixing themselves, their children and their cronies in place.  He describes the end of economic mobility in the US and the fatal concentration of wealth in smaller and smaller hands, crushing the middle class out of existence, factors that have been seen as present in the collapse of other societies.

Well worth the read.

Copyright David Macadam 2012