Our Meretricious Meritocracy

by W.F. Price on January 28, 2014

We are supposedly living in an age of merit, where the best rise to the top through a selective process that rewards valuable traits. This so-called meritocracy is often used to explain away our growing economic inequality. Those who make it, you see, just have the right stuff. This idea of merit was largely invented and is fostered by elite institutions, which pride themselves on selecting for what they call merit. Perhaps it’s a relic of Calvinist predestination, in which a member of the “elect” is destined to be graced by God.

While it’s true that having talent, determination and grit still matters a great deal, we ought to take a closer look at the meritocratic process and what traits it professes to value. Additionally, the traits it fosters and its results are important indicators of what these people and institutions call “merit.”

So, what do we find? A notion of merit that has no room for the traditional virtues yet encourages what used to be known as sin. We find a glorification of pride, greed, lust and gluttony, among others.

Using the seven deadly sins as a standard, let’s examine our “meritocracy” and how it measures up:

  1. Lust

    Promiscuity, licentiousness and all manner of sexual practices are cherished and valued in our elite institutions of higher learning. Not only are they protected, but often celebrated by students and schools alike. Extramarital sex is seen as a “right,” while traditional marriage is frowned upon and ridiculed.

  2. Gluttony

    Gluttony is not strictly about overeating; it also applies to those who do not eat simply, who seek out strange foods, and who have elaborate rituals around eating. The urban trends of shopping at Whole Foods, eating out at chic restaurants frequently, and seeking out trendy foods fits right into the category of gluttony. Obsessive preoccupation with health food is another example, as is binging and purging. Eating disorders are, for the most part, examples of gluttony, and are common among the people of merit.

  3. Greed

    This one goes without saying. An important reason people strive to become members of the meritocratic elite is to make more money. They dream of fancy homes in upscale neighborhoods, isolated from the great unwashed. They want to take trips to Paris and Rome, own the newest, trendiest gadgets and wear the finest clothes.

  4. Sloth

    Most people who make it into meritocratic institutions are not layabouts, but they do often fail to put any significant work into developing their spiritual/humanitarian side. Instead of striving to become better people, they focus on networking with the powerful, and thereby betray a general lack of sincerity in their contrived humanitarianism. An example of this is the filler “humanitarian” work they do only to pad out their applications and resumés rather than for any real concern for people in need. On the academic side, they have begun to cheat with alarming frequency, which demonstrates a form of laziness.

  5. Wrath

    The rage many of our elites feel toward the common American people is all too obvious. Their searing contempt for what they call “ignorant” people, particularly the more humble, religious sort, can manifest itself in almost demonic denunciations and displays of ethnic and religious hatred. This is especially true of feminists, who have an inordinate fondness for hate porn, particularly when directed against those they perceive as part of the “patriarchy.”

  6. Envy

    Envy is often what is behind the desire to join the meritocracy in the first place. For many students and finished elites alike, the institutions themselves provide the tools and opportunities to seize that which they covet, and to profit from the losses of others.

  7. Pride

    Pride is the foremost of sins, and it is also the defining characteristic of the new elite. They take enormous pride in being elevated above their fellow countrymen, and wallow in this pride to no end. The American meritocracy is, above all, a collection of the very proud, secure in their superiority.

Of course, we can point out sin in all sorts of groups of people, but my little exercise here was intended to get people to think about what it means when we throw terms like “merit” around. There’s no doubt that people who make it to the top usually possess admirable qualities and talents, but when these are put to use in rotten ways, what they call merit is actually meretricious.

I could find it in myself to excuse some of the excesses of the elite if they compensated for them with good works, but because they have rejected what most of us see as virtuous, it’s difficult to find much redeeming about them at this point.

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

ScienceDada January 28, 2014 at 15:01

This whole concept is totally new to me, and totally foreign. There are multitudes of women who get everything handed to them with NO merit whatsoever.

I have not seen the growth or even claims of movement toward a Meritocracy in our nation/society. It is ever growing more socialistic, where economic favoritism is replaced by bulls**t political favoritism.

Merit plays very little, if any role in the newer order, unless you are truly among the elite. And I say this as someone who graduated only in the top 50% of a Physics program at a Big Ten University. Those who graduated in the top 5-10% were the elite in that arena. But as I moved on in college and then career, it was all based on politics and networking. Then upon divorce, my assets were confiscated by the powers that be and redistributed to those without merit and their scumbag lawyers.

Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 30 Thumb down 0
ode January 28, 2014 at 15:19

Ever since the white man came over to this country on wooden sailing ships, there has been a class divide in America. However there is one very American trait that has seperated us from our European neighbors and that is there has never been an aristocracy in America. What I mean is there has never been a family that has managed to retain it’s wealth continuously for 100 years. No matter how clever, successful, or how many members of Congress a rich man may have bribed his way to the top he can never be certain his great grandkids will be rich. His children will be rich but anything beyond that is no guarantee.
This characteristic of American culture is so fundamental some would argue America would no longer be “America” without it. Imagine France without red wine, Japan without samurai swords, or Britain without King Arthur, Robin Hood, and Harry Potter.
but…
Some argue there is a fundamental shift happening in America today. What we are seeing is the rise of a true aristocracy, a permanent elite class.

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geographybeefinalisthimself January 28, 2014 at 15:20

Note also how the elites want to project gluttony onto less successful individuals, as if poor people had a wide array of choices as far as healthy eating.

Also note how the elites want to say that lust is not as bad as gluttony. This is an argument that they frequently make with fundamentalist Christians, as there is a stereotype of fundamentalist Christians not being focused on maintaining proper body weight.

It should be pointed out that if someone has promiscuous sex, that individual and possibly others will bear the consequences of that lust, possibly for the rest of their lives in the form of HIV and incurable STDs. It is unclear how long after infection an individual can take antiretrovirals before there is no longer any combination of ARVs that will prevent damage to the HIV-positive individual’s immune system.

The consequences of gluttony are almost entirely borne by the glutton himself or herself.

Despite the attempts of the fat acceptance movement, nobody can be forced to find any glutton sexually attractive, as any human being has control over his or her weight.

While fortunately airlines are never going to cave to the fat acceptance movement (though they still do not make anyone submit proof of their weight when they buy a ticket online), the inconvenience of sitting next to someone taking up three seats on a plane is an inconvenience that lasts the duration of the flight only and only lasts for the rest of one’s life if the plane crashes. There is no need to take a medication after the plane lands for the rest of one’s life as a result of sitting next to a passenger who took up three seats.

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geographybeefinalisthimself January 28, 2014 at 15:34

Here is the mnemonic for the seven deadly sins if you substitute synonyms for some of the words above:

Gluttony
Envy
Lust
Covetousness
Anger
Pride
Sloth

(Substitute “covetousness” for “greed” and “anger” for “wrath” and you get a common medicine form, “gelcaps.”)

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Jabberwocky January 28, 2014 at 18:27

I don’t like poor people mooching off the system, but guess what, rich people get all types of perks and handouts as well (mainly through the tax code but also through various laws and regulations). Socialism for everyone but the middle class it appears.

Merit? I’m a white male with an IQ just in the 99th percentile. My cognitive abilities never benefited me financially in any way, nor even in academic-politics as people who understood my brilliance often resented it or figured as a ‘white-male-oppressor’ I didn’t need any mentor, or validation, or boost to my confidence, and thus I was ignored except for the occasional metaphorical pat on the head. No one cared that another white middle class geek might excel if he was just pushed a little. Hell, I was held back by others. I was adrift in a vast sea of mediocrity that seemed to only care about ‘verbal-linguistic’ skills over anything else. Believe it or not, words are my weak spot. You add to this atmosphere of “intellectual-socialism”, found even at university, some affirmative action, and well, despite graduating with high marks and a decently padded resume’, I’ve basically accomplished jack shit in life due to a failure to launch career wise (not counting my romantic life, which actually got better the more I floundered about. I guess girls do like badboys, because the less I gave a fuck about the system, the hotter my girlfriends became.)

Luckily, I can tell how I shift the way people around me think. I believe I’ve even had some of the ideas and phrases I’ve championed become memes throughout the manosphere, although I could not prove it was related to me directly, or just part of a burgeoning mass consciousness collectively arriving at important truths at the same time, but I can’t help but feel that the weight of my ideas pushed certain concepts across a tipping point, into becoming commonly held beliefs, at least amongst red pillers. But why should I complain that intellect is not rewarded. Life, as far as I’ve been told and as far as I’ve experienced it, simply isn’t fair. I’ve read about far greater genius than mine being not just un-celebrated in their lives, but actively hated upon, only to have their ideas placed on a pillar of excellence after their demise. And think of all the great minds for which even this late recognition never happened. Think of all the heroes who have died with no witness to ever share their great deeds, on the battlefield or on voyages of discovery or through simple acts of divine kindness and charity. Great deeds do not get recognized unless there is a press release, and they do not get rewarded unless they are leveraged for financial gain. I don’t know what a man is to strive for anymore in this cult of personal celebrity, shallow as it is, lacking honor or virtue. Scientists, engineers, military leaders and inventors fall short of the fame and recognition of politicians, performers, athletes and criminals.

Merit means nothing if you are not prepared to ruthlessly take hold of what you believe to be your right and due rewards. Make the market pay what the market will bear for your skills and assets, and choose your skills and assets with a ruthless, cold, calculating mind.

If you’re a white, middle-class male, no one cares about your potential (outside of family maybe, but mine was dysfunctional and did not). Don’t look for others to help raise you up. You are on your own in the system. No one cares about helping you through rough patches or setbacks. They may even try to kick you while you’re down. They only care about what you do accomplish, and even then, only so far as to how it might benefit them. Stop looking for external validation from others, perfect your craft, and realize that you can only go so far on merit alone; eventually you have to take “success” from those who would deny it to you.

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Erudite Knight January 28, 2014 at 19:28

Meritocracy is a sham, is it to convince people the reason you arent rich is because the people richer than you are better than you, not luckier, nor more fortunate, not born into a rich family…

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Lurker January 28, 2014 at 19:44

“Wrath
The rage many of our elites feel toward the common American people is all too obvious. Their searing contempt for what they call “ignorant” people, particularly the more humble, religious sort, can manifest itself in almost demonic denunciations and displays of ethnic and religious hatred. This is especially true of feminists, who have an inordinate fondness for hate porn, particularly when directed against those they perceive as part of the “patriarchy.”

As you mentioned you before . the elites fear them more than anything else. So much so that willing that I feel that they’re willling to take any action to oppress them, because they feel like the salt of the earth people will oppress them. This mostly from a lack of understanding on thier parts.

Another thing, Wrath could be boiled down to the trope of “He who fights Demons”

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Licorne Negro January 29, 2014 at 04:44

Don’t forget that Slothfulness, in its original sense, also covered despair.
Would that also apply to our elites?

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John Savage January 29, 2014 at 05:06

Each age can be characterized by its excesses. The list of “The Seven Deadly Sins,” the over-extensions of ego, is a handy metric by which we can assess the health of an age.

While each of these is very much in play in today’s society, it seems the one that most strongly defines the current times is that which is most tempting to the herd: the sin of the weak massing against the strong, so as to straitjacket the latter and prevent them from carrying out tasks essential to the health of the body politic.

The sin that most characterizes the age is that known as ‘envy.’ It is for this that the age should be named:

“The Age of Resentment”

It is well illustrated by the image of a herd of water buffalo indignantly joining forces against the lone lion, who would cull the herd of its weakest members and thus strengthen it. In its lack of foresight, in its indignance, the herd prevents necessary maintenance for its hardiness and longevity.

The cosmic order is disregarded. Natural checks and balances, the need for self-control, discipline and moderation are ignored. As a result, other sins multiply. The herd suffers. Overpopulation, plague, famine, war and death are the result.

The Age of the Strong is gradually replaced by an Age of the Weak. The society moves from a period of virile, dynamic resilience into an age of effeminate, effete mediocrity, defeat and decline. There is a descent into the Age of the Mob.

This is not an age of merit, but rather an age of Meretricious Decline.

The Age of Resentment sows the seeds of its own destruction. Soon enough it implodes of the weight of its own unrealistic aspirations and becomes bankrupted by the despicable sickliness and mal-adaptiveness that it defends.

It paves the way for… “The Return of Kings.”

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shiva1008 January 29, 2014 at 09:00

^ ROK encourages all of the 7 deadly sins so you pretty much lost all credibility when you mentioned them. They are not virtuous; they are cheaters who try to take as much as possible without contributing anything of value. If you look at their rhetorical strategy it is pure sophistry with no substance. You are right about one thing though, the weak do prosper in this age… because most people don’t have the strength to even attempt the path of virtue, so they would rather try to do things as cheaply as possible and just take as much as possible for themselves, to hell with everyone else.

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chinesefootsoldier January 29, 2014 at 10:53

Strange post. I prefer to see things in duality.

If you had more pride you wouldn’t be losing your civilization to immigrants.
If you had more greed and gluttony, you’d be more motivated for economic and geopolitical supremacy.
If you had more lust, you wouldn’t be faced with such abysmal birth rates.
If you had more envy, you’d feel the need to compete against other individuals and nations.
If you had more wrath, you’d strike fear into the hearts of your leftist enemies.

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W.F. Price January 29, 2014 at 11:00

@chinesefootsoldier

Mainly I’m trying to point out the inherent hypocrisy of people who act as though they are morally superior to others yet espouse moral corruption.

But you could argue endlessly about this stuff. For example, is it more prideful to feel that one’s civilization needs protection from being swamped, or is it more prideful to feel that your group will be eternally dominant over an atomized mass of peons? Also, do greed and gluttony lead to wealth, or to squandering wealth? Does lust lead to fertility, or to disease and dissipation? etc.

John Savage January 29, 2014 at 12:29

RE: shiva1008 January 29, 2014 at 09:00

^ ROK encourages all of the 7 deadly sins so you pretty much lost all credibility when you mentioned them. They are not virtuous; they are cheaters who try to take as much as possible without contributing anything of value.

shiva1008, I believe you are referring to the website returnofkings.com

I was unaware of the site until I read your comment above and did a search. I was referring to a Tolkien novel of the title, “The Return of the King” and thinking in terms of a return to an age of strong men and heroes who work in the best interests of the society as a whole and not just in the short-term best interests of special interest groups and lemmings.

I have read neither the novel nor the website, so it was an unfortunate reference. I apologize for my ignorance, not having read all that has ever been written and having been smitten by a phrase…

I will be careful in the future not to speak without absolute certainty.

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Lurker January 29, 2014 at 14:40

“@chinesefootsoldier

Mainly I’m trying to point out the inherent hypocrisy of people who act as though they are morally superior to others yet espouse moral corruption.

But you could argue endlessly about this stuff. For example, is it more prideful to feel that one’s civilization needs protection from being swamped, or is it more prideful to feel that your group will be eternally dominant over an atomized mass of peons? Also, do greed and gluttony lead to wealth, or to squandering wealth? Does lust lead to fertility, or to disease and dissipation? etc.”

The key is moderation and reason. For example, lust when channel properly shouldn’t lead to massive orgies or excessive prudery. Moderation is one of the things that I feel the West severely lacks. It always extreme prudery or hedonism.

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Jaego January 30, 2014 at 01:21

If we had a recognized ruling class, then they could be held responsible – or perhaps even hold themselves responsible. If fact, we used to even though they did try and play it down. Read about Ralph Waldo Emerson: his son didn’t want to go and fight for the North in the Civil War. His father, the great Transcendentalist, said, It’s your duty and you’re going. He went.

Only since Vietnam have the Elite stopped sending their sons into the Military. Surely it’s no coincidence. Having money is the only qualification for being upper class now. And they hate us now with a passion? Don’t people often hate those whom they have wronged?

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artist January 30, 2014 at 11:05

Great post, Price.

Within my little world I see the your definition of Gluttony the most. I have hipster/elite relations who are totally into this new age food thing. The seeking of strange foods stands out. Kale and it’s derivatives are very popular. My 1% Brooklyn brother-in-law will not eat any cheese that costs less then $25lb! He’ll even ask you where you bought the food you’re serving him. It better not be Costco! Also, one’s beer must cost ay least $5 per bottle. It’s one thing to see a fussy rich dude consume like this, but another thing to see a pair of 30 year olds living on the edge celebrating this form of conspicuous consumption. Everything must be just so!

On a second note, I work in academics. One of my clients and friends is a physicist. The stories he tells me of how the departments is corrupted with regards to harding is horrifying. Don’t assume STEM is immune to PC and is an ironclad bastion of reality. My friend is routinely pressured to help mediocre grad students along. Sloth perhaps?

Furthermore I have seen entire university departments corrupted by pursuit of climate change money. It’s a gold rush and one better be onboard. Greed.

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epoche* January 30, 2014 at 16:10

Mainly I’m trying to point out the inherent hypocrisy of people who act as though they are morally superior to others yet espouse moral corruption.

But you could argue endlessly about this stuff. For example, is it more prideful to feel that one’s civilization needs protection from being swamped, or is it more prideful to feel that your group will be eternally dominant over an atomized mass of peons? Also, do greed and gluttony lead to wealth, or to squandering wealth? Does lust lead to fertility, or to disease and dissipation? etc.
—————————————————-
The main problem is that the elite have no criteria to determine good public policy other than being popular. From:

http://takimag.com/article/the_will_to_powerlessness/print#axzz2rvffMQQQ

They promote egalitarianism, which sucks the life out of culture and transforms aristocrats into servants of compassion. They have exalted multiculturalism over their own heritage, have imposed oppressive systems on themselves and other aristocrats, and have catapulted an inexperienced, underequipped, indecisive, conniving, awkward, sinister, spiteful man—Barack Obama—to the US presidency.

The failure of the aristocratic class—what’s left of it—to distinguish the moral from the immoral, the good from the bad, has created a society that determines public policy and (mis)educates its citizens based on indefinable concepts with no direct relation to the phenomenal world. Diversity and multicultural mania, besides signifying nothing, have made us slaves of false virtues, enablers of cultural and economic regression, and perpetuators of self-imposed discipline and denial.

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Lurker January 31, 2014 at 06:27

@Mr. Price

Can you blame someone for being picky for what they put into their body? If we’re to assume that most of the food and hygiene products that are cheap is not good for health in the long term.

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Paul Murray February 3, 2014 at 19:36

Wrath – whenever the POTUS announces yet another war, his popularity gets an uptick.

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