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Thread: Is the United States an example of a meritocracy

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    Re: Is the United States an example of a meritocracy

    Quote Originally Posted by megaprogman View Post
    Overall, I think it isn't as too many things get in the way, such as unequal starting points in life, unequal opportunities in life, the fact that some get cancer while others do not, etc.

    Not that we will ever really be able to fix those problems, but I do think they get in the way and make the playing field uneven.
    Many things make the playing field uneven. And it truly is unfortunate. One of the biggest questions we have to ask is whether or not we should attempt to make the playing field more 'even' by disadvantaging those that were advantaged. Those who are disadvantaged are now disadvantaged still, but less. Those who were 'advantaged' will still be, but feel worse because something had been taken away from them against their will (potentially) - but they definately lost the freedom to choose to help. So again, do two wrongs make a right? (the first wrong being the unfair 'random' disadvantage, the second unfair forcing the 'advantaged' to a lower level of being advantaged)

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    Re: Is the United States an example of a meritocracy

    Quote Originally Posted by fredmertz View Post
    Many things make the playing field uneven. And it truly is unfortunate. One of the biggest questions we have to ask is whether or not we should attempt to make the playing field more 'even' by disadvantaging those that were advantaged. Those who are disadvantaged are now disadvantaged still, but less. Those who were 'advantaged' will still be, but feel worse because something had been taken away from them against their will (potentially) - but they definately lost the freedom to choose to help. So again, do two wrongs make a right? (the first wrong being the unfair 'random' disadvantage, the second unfair forcing the 'advantaged' to a lower level of being advantaged)
    I think in the case of the ideal being that everyone is able to provide for themselves and live a happy life, than yes, it would be a right. If you take something away from someone who has plenty, more often than not, they will continue to have plenty while it might help one or more people who otherwise would not have had that opportunity. Ultimately, I think we need to design our help systems to help those who want it and will work for it and not lazy people, but even if choice is lost for the person with plenty, they will probably still have plenty, so its not really worth worrying about.

    Of course, I don't believe in the sanctity of property as many conservatives & libertarians do or that I believe that people are more important than property. I am not sure which really applies best to me.

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    Re: Is the United States an example of a meritocracy

    Quote Originally Posted by megaprogman View Post
    Do you believe that our social and economic systems are an example of functional meritocracy?
    Compared to just about every other country on earth? Yeah. Is it perfect? No, of course not.

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    Re: Is the United States an example of a meritocracy

    In general, the U.S. believes in advancement through merit and we apply those principles with a decent degree of success. There is a lot of variance between fields though. Sports players for example, operate almost purely on merit as performance is very easy to gauge and money can't buy athleticism or talent. Politicians on the other hand get power through a combination of money, backroom deals and talking a good game. Writing good or bad legislation very rarely has anything to do with their chances of getting elected.

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    Re: Is the United States an example of a meritocracy

    Quote Originally Posted by megaprogman View Post
    I think in the case of the ideal being that everyone is able to provide for themselves and live a happy life, than yes, it would be a right. If you take something away from someone who has plenty, more often than not, they will continue to have plenty while it might help one or more people who otherwise would not have had that opportunity. Ultimately, I think we need to design our help systems to help those who want it and will work for it and not lazy people, but even if choice is lost for the person with plenty, they will probably still have plenty, so its not really worth worrying about.

    Of course, I don't believe in the sanctity of property as many conservatives & libertarians do or that I believe that people are more important than property. I am not sure which really applies best to me.
    well said as usual. I suppose I'm closest to a libertarian, so allow me to clarify a belief. If you believe people are more important than property, your beliefs are in line with mine. But by people, I also mean their freedoms and letting them choose to protect their own values - including the freedom to choose to be selfish.

    When I stop and think about it, sometimes I feel like it's crazy that I support making sure that people have this choice of keeping their property. I fully understand your argument. I mean, is that choice to keep their 'advantage'/property that they may have been born into really worth the cost of them potentially choosing to not give it up? (which in a lot of cases, they DON'T give it up!). That cost could even be people starving! When you're right, they could be just as happy and well-off potentially even if they did give it up. Believe me, there's a hippy inside each of us .

    But at the end of the day, I think the world will be better off if we play the cards we are dealt with and don't force each other to share. The philosophy behind those economics seem more sound to me. I suppose it's just against my nature to force people to help people. I would much prefer it to be voluntary.

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    Re: Is the United States an example of a meritocracy

    Quote Originally Posted by fredmertz View Post
    well said as usual. I suppose I'm closest to a libertarian, so allow me to clarify a belief. If you believe people are more important than property, your beliefs are in line with mine. But by people, I also mean their freedoms and letting them choose to protect their own values - including the freedom to choose to be selfish.
    I think this is where we diverge. Again due to our different concept of freedom.

    Quote Originally Posted by fredmertz View Post
    When I stop and think about it, sometimes I feel like it's crazy that I support making sure that people have this choice of keeping their property. I fully understand your argument. I mean, is that choice to keep their 'advantage'/property that they may have been born into really worth the cost of them potentially choosing to not give it up? (which in a lot of cases, they DON'T give it up!). That cost could even be people starving! When you're right, they could be just as happy and well-off potentially even if they did give it up. Believe me, there's a hippy inside each of us .
    Well said, I think the focus of property as a part of freedom is actually somewhat against human nature when it comes to laws. Its pretty easy to be happy, but you need security more than stuff.

    Quote Originally Posted by fredmertz View Post
    But at the end of the day, I think the world will be better off if we play the cards we are dealt with and don't force each other to share. The philosophy behind those economics seem more sound to me. I suppose it's just against my nature to force people to help people. I would much prefer it to be voluntary.
    I would prefer it to be voluntary as well, but history has shown time after time that it does not work. I like the idea of people doing whatever they want with whatever they get, I just don't see how it could ever produce an end result that won't destroy itself. Its a fundamental flaw in humanity I think, but its one we must deal with, even if it means we cannot all be fully free and can only achieve the freedoms that are practical against our self destructive nature.

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    Re: Is the United States an example of a meritocracy

    Quote Originally Posted by fredmertz View Post
    But at the end of the day, I think the world will be better off if we play the cards we are dealt with and don't force each other to share. The philosophy behind those economics seem more sound to me. I suppose it's just against my nature to force people to help people. I would much prefer it to be voluntary.
    Understood; but at the same time, many of us believe that spending money on social programs such as health care, education and basic needs is a good investment in our society. An educated and healthy society of citizens who have their basic needs met is a worthy goal, don't you think?

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    Re: Is the United States an example of a meritocracy

    Quote Originally Posted by megaprogman View Post
    I would prefer it to be voluntary as well, but history has shown time after time that it does not work. I like the idea of people doing whatever they want with whatever they get, I just don't see how it could ever produce an end result that won't destroy itself. Its a fundamental flaw in humanity I think, but its one we must deal with, even if it means we cannot all be fully free and can only achieve the freedoms that are practical against our self destructive nature.
    I think I have more faith in humanity than that. Social Security, for example, wasn't enacted until AFTER the depression, when the elderly were found in the street because they had not saved for retirement. Or their pensions went bust. etc.

    But if it is human nature to spend what you have on yourself, then there would have been poor planners all throughout history that would end up on the street in their old age.

    So why did we not need Social Security before the depression? Partially because people could afford to help people - by their choice. The streets were clean because people made society a clean place. They gave to churches who funded hospitals and 'hospices' (or their form). The depression took away their ability to help. It wasn't that they weren't willing to help. Just that they weren't able.

    And so we got the government to help with this new system. We then became dependent. This happened, IMO, in other ways with other entitlement programs. And the more people were paying taxes, the less they had to donate to the church or non-profit. They could no longer support hospitals. So the gov't had to step in there too. People stopped willingly giving money to help. They were forced too.

    And so they tried to keep whatever they could for themselves - they got defensive when they were forced to give their money away, even though that's what their nature would have done anyway.

    And now we have people running around screaming theft at the taxes that help people that they would have voluntarily helped anyway, IMO, as we had done a century ago.

    We asked for help from the gov't. We got it. We became dependent on it and therefore resented it because we couldn't help in the ways we wanted to choose to. Which meant we stopped helping. Which means the gov't steps in more. And we hate it more. And we need it more. It's a viscious cycle. Do we go back to before they helped? Or keep feeding the cycle (that I believe will ulitmately lead to an attempted revolution... one that may fail)?

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    Re: Is the United States an example of a meritocracy

    I think we are. I know to many Blacks like myself that got out of bad low class situations and rose to be very successful. Anecdotal I know, but I am not claiming to be any kind of expert on this, so I can only go with my limited information.
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    Re: Is the United States an example of a meritocracy

    Quote Originally Posted by megaprogman View Post
    When I was young and nave, I believed that important people took positions based on careful consideration of the options. Now I know better. - Paul Krugman
    I had to respond to this Krugman quote. Where does the strongest economic champion of statist solutions come off saying something so brilliant? Milton Friedman said it best when he stated, "One of the greatest mistakes is to judge policies and programs by their intentions rather than their results."

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