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Reckless Meritocracies

Being a staunch advocate of democratic meritocracy, when I stumbled across the title of this potentially UCB-loosening op-ed by Ross Douthat; “Our Reckless Meritocracy, I dove right in. I was intrigued by the use of the word “reckless” in the title.

Ross commences his opinion piece by telling the rags-to-riches-to-rags story of Jon Corzine:

  • Boy grows up in rural Illinois
  • Boy’s grandfather was a farmer who lost everything in the great depression
  • Boy graduates from Illinois state university
  • Boy goes into Marine Corps
  • Boy gets MBA
  • Boy works for regional bank
  • Boy works for Goldman Sachs
  • Boy becomes Goldman Sachs CEO
  • Boy serves in US senate
  • Boy serves as governer of NJ
  • Boy returns to Wall St. as CEO of MF Global
  • MF Global files for bankruptcy after “mislaying” $600M
  • Boy resigns in disgrace (but with plenty of dough in the bank)

Ross uses this lead-in to postulate that the US has “created what seems like the most capable, hardworking, high-I.Q. elite in all of human history – and we’ve watched this same elite lead us off a cliff“.

Ross then theorizes on how catastrophies are perpetrated by the rich and powerful in reckless meritocracies, hereditary aristocracies, and one-party states:

  • Hereditary aristocracies: debacles caused by stupidity and pigheadedness
  • One Party States: debacles caused by ideological mania
  • Reckless Meritocracies: debacles caused  by hubris

Relative to the other two forms of governance, at least scores of little people aren’t physically massacred in reckless meritocracies. They’re simply thrust into poverty. The real genius of reckless meritocracy is that when a meritocrat falls, he/she isn’t beheaded. At worst, he/she goes to jail. At best, he/she gets away with a huge bag of loot.

So, what’s a democratically run institution to do? Mr. Douthat rightly states that “it will do America no good to replace the arrogant with the ignorant, the overconfident with the incompetent“. (Didn’t you see the movie “Idiocracy“?)

We need intelligent leaders with a sense of their own limits, experienced people whose lives have taught them caution. We still need the best and brightest, but we need them to have somehow learned humility along the way. – Ross Douthat

If you made it thus far into this post, you may be wondering why BD00 is wasting your time by simply parroting Ross Douthat in yet another meta-blog post? It’s because BD00 wanted to display his fledgling UML skill again:

But wait!  It may ironically be because of BD00’s own personal lack of humility and the fact that BD00 gets off on reading funny spammer comments like these:

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  1. November 26, 2011 at 8:31 am

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