It seems to me that, as Time Magazine once said, Merit is the only real measure of a man. Most in the USA would agree that merit is a good scalar (yard stick) to measure people. It is the basis of the American Meritocratic system.
Aristocratic systems as we see in modern Europe and elsewhere are striated. They have more rigid hierarchy and less class mobility. Merit is a minor attribute in the greater scheme. Birthright is higher on the social scale of value. Not only in aristocratic systems, but in other, more popularly known as populist systems. Some people argue, (in these “populist” systems), that some groups have been discriminated against and so they should get preferential treatment… Essentially making these groups aristocrats (on some level). These are non meritocratic systems.
Other societies assign different values to different attributes. Some systems give great value to the elderly. This can be said to be a kind or type of meritocratic system (Meritocracy). The elderly contain a vast reserve of wisdom, those that hold the elderly to have value, have access to that reserve. To always rely on the written word is to blind oneself for that sake of it. Others assign great value to military achievement, still others value piety as the highest good. These are said to be the “Societal Myths” of these societies. And represent forms of merit.
Merit implies earning a given reward, position, accreditation, job, etc… To merit something is to have earned it by giving some good for it. When something is earned common usage implies that the earning was done by the “sweat of the brow.” Not taken from a plebian because he has no rights and the other has rights.
Aristocracy (class based) or Caste systems have within their societal myth that the goods of society are earned by virtue of one’s birth or status. Merit reverses this by saying that, to justly deserve a good, it must be earned by “the sweat of one’s brow.”
The sweat of ones brow can mean many things. The obvious would be to fashion a product from some primary input such as a stone. Less obvious means are to invent and record something or simply to facilitate it’s being fashioned. The good in question need not even be a thing… It could be a thing, but it could also be a good like an idea, fidelity, fecundity, or a service.
So we see that merit depends on the society in which we live. The definition of which can be fluid. But the overriding theme that runs through all societies is the idea that to merit something one has to have done something to earn it or have some natural talent to merit it. Systems that give value to birthright, party status, place in a tribe, etc are non meritocratic.
The argument against meritocracy is always the same. That some people have fewer marketable talents than others so that inequality will result in any meritocracy. To make this argument it is necessary to ignore the historical fact that, no system, ever devised by man, actually resulted(s) in equal in outcomes.
I say that, who cares how equal everyone is, if we are all starving, or how unequal, if the poorest among us are overweight. I would rather live in the unequal nation where the poorest have plenty than the one where we are all starving. Especially because I know we won’t all be starving… The Elite will have plenty. It is the masses that will always go without. No system is truly equal. Some just claim to be as a sophist way of getting power.
I hold that it is in fact America’s meritocratic system that has not only raised the lot of the American people but the lot of all mankind as well. If other countries and nations adopted America’s meritocracy, as well as some other American traits, starvation on Earth would be eradicated in less than a generation.
Lets just face it… to be anti meritocratic is to be lazy.