A brief history of merit and its abolition

In an environment of limited resources – which is to say an environment in the real world – those resources get allocated. Not everyone can start and build Microsoft and not everyone can conceive of the General Theory of Relativity.

So how does society decide which people do?

The answer is that society doesn’t decide. Instead it happens as a result of merit. The most meritorious aren’t allocated those titles, wealth, inventiveness, prestige and accolades. They earn them.

The founder and builder of Microsoft is an extraordinarily talented, hard-working and risk-taking individual named Bill Gates. The guy who thought up the General Theory of Relativity is an obscure and un-trumpeted (at the time) but brilliantly creative man who is now synonymous with “genius” named Albert Einstein.

Others could have done what they did. But others didn’t. They lacked sufficient merit.

If this sounds like social Darwinism, that’s because it is. In the animal world, it’s survival (or, more precisely, reproduction) of the fittest. The individuals who are most able to pass on their DNA, do. As a matter of logic and semantics, Darwinism goes beyond a theory; it’s an axiom.

Millions of years ago, hominids with bigger brains tended to survive and reproduce, thereby passing on their big-brain DNA to another generation, while those without didn’t.

Was that unfair to the ones without the big brains? Maybe, depending on how you define “unfair.”

Nature itself knows nothing of unfairness. I suppose that to us it’s “unfair” that nature culls out the weakest to die in the mouths of predators. But the result is that the strongest, not the weakest, pass on their stronger DNA to produce a stronger species. In short, “survival of the fittest” is a colloquial term for merit.

The big-brained hominids passed on their big-brain DNA, and that’s why we’re here to ponder the issue of fairness – an issue that other species don’t spend a lot of time on.

Recently, society has become so wealthy as a result of the innovation and hard work by people of merit that we can, or we suppose we can, abolish merit as a tool for allocating our abundant but still limited resources.

But why would we abolish a tool that has taken us out of the animal world and into a world of humanity and spirituality where we, uniquely, care about fairness?

The answer is that some groups in America have failed to wield that tool successfully in the short time that it’s been available to them. We are concerned, rightly, that some racial groups, chiefly blacks, have not competed well in an environment that allocates resources on the basis of merit.

And so simple-minded social engineers, mainly leftist whites, not blacks, have decided that our only choices are either (1) to eliminate blacks or (2) to eliminate merit. They’ve chosen the second choice.

Both choices are bad. The first is abhorrent and deserves no discussion. The second is catastrophic, for several reasons.

First, we might lessen merit as an allocator of resources, such as stock market riches, with the use of unwieldy regulatory systems, but we can’t eliminate it as an allocator of inventiveness or artistry or brilliance.

We can’t legislate that a person of a particular skin color will be the next physicist to conceive of something like the Theory of Relativity or the next composer of something like Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony or the next painter of something like the Sistine Chapel. Nature – i.e. the natural world, i.e. reality – does not respect our notions of fairness.

The outcome or our social engineering will be that there’s no next Theory of Relativity, no next Ninth Symphony and no next Sistine Chapel. In our effort to allocate those achievements to those we deem “fair” to receive them, we eliminate them and deny their benefit to everyone.

It’ll be back to the caves.

Second, the latest fashion in “fairness” is a concept that begs for corruption. Today’s “fair” becomes tomorrow’s “unfair” depending on the fickle winds of fashion and political power. In place of a natural system of cause and effect, we substitute a corruptible system of favoritism and cronyism.

The people will quickly see, as they always do, that our “fairness” is simply a rationale for our power. Now we’ve produced a society of cynical underachievers – Russian alcoholics.

Finally, our abolition of merit is utterly unfeasible. If skin color replaces merit, how do we determine skin color? Blacks in America average about 20-30% white. Our black president was 50% white. Which get the spoils? The least white ones? By what margin? What if one is 20% white but seems highly deserving while the other is only 10% white but seems less deserving?

And wait just a minute. What’s this about “deserving”? In distinguishing between people of a given skin color on the basis of which is more “deserving” aren’t we talking again about merit? So is merit abolished in competitions between people of different (sort of) skin color but retained in competitions between people of the same (sort of) skin color?

In other words, is “merit” bad in those contexts where we deem it bad but good in those contexts where we deem it good? Who are we to decide which context is which?

Back to the choice between eliminating blacks and eliminating merit. I contend that this is a false choice.

Blacks have not been given a fair chance at merit. Outside a few narrow areas like jazz music (which is a highly intellectual endeavor in my opinion) and sports, merit has been a widespread tool available for black achievement for only about a generation.

American blacks will learn to use merit, as everyone else has, and they will excel. Some will become as meritorious as Bill Gates or Michelangelo or Beethoven. To suggest that merit as a tool should be abolished because blacks are congenitally unable to use it, is unfair and condescending. It’s despicably racist.

My advice to the social engineers is to get your goddam thumbs off the scale. Let blacks use merit, demand that they use it and give them time to use it. They will surprise you, and it will be a better world.

12 thoughts on “A brief history of merit and its abolition

  1. Well, it appears that we have a large segment of the black society that is bent on passing along as much DNA as possible to as many different “receptors” as possible. Not sure how that fits into survival of the fittest, but it sure translates into survival of the mostest.

    • Thank goodness for Margaret Sanger and Planned Parenthood! (Yeah, that’s what passes for humor in my mind these days.)

      • To be fair, I should include white trailer trash, too. (Is ‘white trailer trash’ a race?)

  2. At the risk of sounding like Pilate, What is merit? Answer: Something for which the human hive has very limited tolerance.

    In slightly altered circumstances, Einstein could easily have met with the fate of Galileo or Hippasus — the Ancient Greek who, according to legend, was drowned by his fellow mathematicians for divulging the existence of irrational numbers.

    And then there are luddites like me who refuse to be impressed by Bill Gates. Something there is that doesn’t love Microsoft (or Google or Facebook or TikTok). I’d be happier entering a dark age — which, come to think of it, we appear to be doing.

    As for the long litany of Christian martyrs, their moral merit cost them their lives.

    And, of course, there’s Donald Trump, a figure of prodigious energy, ability, and public virtue (not to be confused with personal virtue), but who possesses no merit whatsoever when it comes to framing three consecutive sentences with any degree of rhetorical precision or elegance. I mean, geez, did the guy ever take a freshman composition or public speaking class? As a result, even people who love him wince throughout his rambling coronavirus press conferences, while those who hate him can easily brand him as a buffoon and a hater for saying that (all) Mexicans are rapists and that we should drink bleach — things he did not actually say, if you care to untangle his unruly syntax.

    Thanks to “this one defect” (I’m quoting Hamlet), all his other merits, be they “yuge” as planets, are as dross. It doesn’t matter that, compared with Biden, Trump sounds like Socrates, or that “White Fragility” — Amazon’s #1 bestseller — makes “The Art of the Deal” read like “Anna Karenina” (Thanks to Matt Taibbi for that one!). He’s headed for the same martyrdom that Winston Churchill encountered after the War, and if he continues his propensity for defending Christianity, he’ll become one of the Christian martyrs alluded to above.

    In conclusion: “Merit? We don’t need no stinkin’ merit!”

    • Your response had me smiling from ear to ear! Thanks, I needed that !
      The assessment of “White Fragility” was spot in.

  3. I’m kind of at a loss here, between 1865-1965 there was much “Black” meritorious achievement, granted that the percentages were small but emerging from slavery in this Nation had produced people like George Washington Carver and Booker T. just to name 2 but the grander point might be when we started to look for heroes that looked like them, rather than their noted behavior. I recall during the mid to late 70’s a push came to find heroes in Minority’s and began pushing the Founding Fathers to the back of the bus. I think this a grave error and it’s manifestation is tearing out the heart of this Nation as we speak. Merit was the lesson to be taught but Black like me seems to be the lesson learned. Why can’t a child of color, boy or girl, pattern their life after say George Washington? His skin color was not his merit, what he did was yet now he is relegated to a back burner due to Slave Owning, something common in his day. Merit should be a universal value, we’ve made it racial or left it out entirely for the sake of diversity? I do not think me in big disagreement with Mr. Beaton but I think I recognize maybe a misdirection or path we took that didn’t turn out so good that we should acknowledge.

  4. The conceit that holds the removal-of and\or societal-acceptance-of any condition that oppresses a small group of people as the only path to equality of creation necessarily rejects merit, individuality, and natural law.

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