Attacks on the Meritocracy Have Been Coming For Years

Via Andrew Sullivan

What Freddie [DeBoer] is arguing is that, far from treating genetic inequality as a taboo, the left should actually lean into it to argue for a more radical re-ordering of society. They shouldn’t ignore genetics, or treat it as unmentionable, or go into paroxysms of fear and alarm over “eugenics” whenever the subject comes up. They should accept that inequality is natural, and construct a politics radical enough to counter it.

For DeBoer, that means ending meritocracy — for “what could be crueler than an actual meritocracy, a meritocracy fulfilled?” It means a revolutionary transformation in which there are no social or cultural rewards for higher intelligence, no higher after-tax income for the brainy, and in which education, with looser standards, is provided for everyone on demand — for the sake of nothing but itself.

This has been coming for years in the labor movement -- requirements to use seniority over performance for layoffs, ban the box laws, lawsuits over reference checks, attacks on gig economy where rewards are tied to performance, etc.  Way back in 2010 I worried that the increasing restrictions on what information could be used in hiring stemmed from this same desire

That being said, as someone who has 500 service employees working for me, I understand the insatiable desire for information on employee reliability and conscientiousness.  A large number of our employees we hire who interview well tend to get released within 60 days of their hire.  I can't tell you how many people who seem totally normal and friendly turn out to be raving maniacs in stressful customer contact situations.

The elephant in the room that neither McArdle or folks like Kevin Drum mention is that businesses are starved for [reliable] information on potential employees.  It used to be the best source was to check job references.  Nowadays, though, very few employers will give a honest job reference, or will provide any information at all.  I know I am guilty of that -- my company does not allow any manager to give out performance data on past employees.  I only needed to be sued once over somehow interfering with someone's living by giving honest information about that employee's reliability to change my behavior.

I understand that this is exactly what the Left is shooting for - an environment where the competent have no advantage over the incompetent.  If employers are resorting to FICO scores, it just demonstrates how all the other reasonable avenues of obtaining information have been closed to them.

A number of folks thought the bit in bold overwrought, but I still feel this is directionally correct.  Clearly DeBoer defines an extreme.  I think the actual goal of the Left could be better stated as wanting to make all employment decisions based not so much on competence but on credentials, credentials that are awarded via processes and institutions controlled by the Left (and that might over time be awarded as much for political orthodoxy as for learning relevant skills).  Which, by the way, is pretty much exactly how the Soviet Union worked.  And is pretty much how tenure works at most universities today.