Mar 21, 2022·edited Mar 21, 2022Liked by Erik Torenberg

strong read. i recently read that 90%+ of our evolutionary history was in hunter-gatherer tribes, and these tribes of 25-40 are egalitarian — ostensibly leaderless, and the most skilled hunters are not allocated more food. if you take this deep egalitarian assumption as true, how might we evolve meritocracy to fit into our human software?

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Aug 22, 2022·edited Aug 22, 2022

Very much enjoyed this post (and others). Appreciate all your links out to further readings.

Something I rarely see addressed in the meritocracy debates is: On what terms should we judge the "merit" of an aspiring meritocrat?

The always implied measure is, I think, that a meritocracy is morally superior to an "aristocracy of land and inheritance" because and only because it (presumably!) does a superior job nurturing the health and well-being of its sponsoring society.

Are our modern American meritocrats (Ivy League strivers, Silicon Valley disruptors, hedge fund billionaires, Fortune 500 CEOs, etc) actually delivering more genuine human flourishing than the alternative regimes? Maybe they are! But, again, I rarely see meritocrats acknowledge that, ultimately, enriching one's state rather than enriching oneself is the entire rationale behind the purported superiority of meritocracy. Instead, the discussion of "merit" usually devolves to discussion of ancillary things like SAT scores, credentials, and of course money -- which conveniently substitutes the supposed correlates of a desired outcome for the outcome itself. Yes, Zuckerberg crushed the SATs, went to Harvard, and founded a Silicon Valley juggernaut on his way to becoming one of the fifty most wealthy people in the U.S. The modern American meritocracy has been very, very good for Mark and his peers. Has that specific meritocracy been commensurately good for America? Are there alternative regimes with different incentive structures where America does marginally better and Zuckerberg does marginally worse than the one we have? Wouldn't such a regime be more meritocratic than this one?

On what terms should we judge the "merit" of an aspiring meritocrat?

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