There are a number of standards and methods which people think are the best way to determine who in fact deserves to be where. In name, at least, meritocracy has the upper hand in the struggle in the United States. But what do people really mean when they say meritocracy?
I think that there are actually two things which, unrelated though they may be, people call meritocracy: time serving and meritocracy based on mental abilities and skill.
No, this isn't an Ayn Randian "Let all the smart people rule!" screed; it isn't even a 'smart people' column so much as it is a qualified people column.
What's the difference between the two?
Well, in these two different conceptions of things you have on the one side a vision of advancement which is slow and steady. People don't get places fast. Work and achievement is supposed to be unbelievably hard and you have to put in years and years of effort to get somewhere where you're qualified to be in a good position, and also be re-educated out of your radical ways.
The other way of thinking about things is quite simple:if you have the ability and can do the work, and do it well, then nothing else matters. You should be where you can effectively do what you do.
This scares people because it puts to lie this whole time serving "Work is Hard! You don't know how to do it and won't know how to do it until ten years have passed!" bullshit.
Skill is skill.
Some crafts require a buildup of skill before a person can really do what they do properly, but that's because of the nature of the thing. If a person came along who could do it without the long work and do it well they'd be hailed as a really smart or skilled person and put to work.
That is, if people were really concerned about work.
You see, when you break it down to what a person can do regarding mental work and craft work you enter into a realm where people can advance very fast without a lot of slow and hoary conservative bullshit behind them, and this makes people nervous. Radicals and liberals included.
If I can do a job I should be able to do it. Period. End of story.
But it's not ever just about jobs, is it? It's about who gets what when and where and people aren't prepared to surrender that without a fight.
So they put up bullshit about the difficulty of this, the,oh, you're not prepared for that, the oh, you couldn't possibly understand that, nonsense to weed out those who they think aren't fit to join their club.
That's what I call time serving. Nothing more, a heck of a lot less.
And it isn't meritocracy.
Meritocracy is conducive to radical changes in position....hence the name.