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The Myth of Meritocracy

The Myth of Meritocracy

Robert Reich

Most Americans still cling to the meritocratic notion that people are rewarded according to their efforts and abilities. But meritocracy is becoming a cruel joke.

The Justice Department recently announced indictments of dozens of wealthy parents for using bribery and fraud to get their children into prestigious colleges.


Ridiculous that money could get all those rewards, especially when people work hard to get where they are.

Totally agree with your analysis Prof. Reich. My only point of contention is that the CD website from which I linked to your article presents itself on the tab in my browser under “Breaking News & Views”. Whilst still an appropriate point for discussion, there is nothing new here. Something new would be revolutionary.

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The irony, as I see it, is that the linear construct is proving the veracity of the mythos of the oroborus.

I find it virtually impossible to consider the dynamics and consequences of activities under the predatory construct commonly called capitalism, as asserted by the Milton Friedmans and their get, without looking at the concept of “externalized costs” as being the toxic vortex sucking everything into its extinction spin.

The system now, in practice, is nothing more than capitalism consuming itself based on its predatory elements, which has hit the wall (peoples are waking up to it; ecologically it has been poisoning the planet and eliminating/externalizing/denying all methods for societal equilibrium centered on preventing such ABUSES, etc…) and the latest symptoms in the Drumph vortex are a terrific mirror for downloading points to add to the litany.

The most egregious phase having been introduced to sacrifice the entirety of society. This comes back full circle to the dehumanization of non-Christian peoples as used during colonization by Church and European Crown families in what is today called the Doctrine of Discovery.

We fail to recognize at our own peril how this has been continuously updated in the legal legal system and how it has, for centuries, undermined societal integrity. The converse of course being that it serves as a horizon of coherence moving forward.


I’m 72 yrs old and was born into, lived my working years, AND still am lower middle class. Believe me in all the jobs I have had and struggled to get monetary and promotion gains “merit” didn’t have a fucking thing to do with it. The old crude saying “it’s not who you know, but who you blow” applies in 80% of jobs, education and maybe most importantly the so called “rule of law”. Compare all the European countries and the vast majority are well ahead of the US in most things that people think important.


The myth of the meritocracy is even more fundamentally distorted than the article depicts.
“Work hard and you will be successful”, and the next deranged innuendo, “You get what you deserve ( in the context of work)”, can be proven inaccurate so many millions of times, that they become solidly legitimate evidence of normalized insanity.
People are not born equal. Almost everyone works very hard, or, works to the best of their abilities, yet millions will be in poverty while the controllers sing their dangerous, sociopathic tune. Many will suffer from illnesses and be unable to work and will suffer terribly within the social mythology that bans stating the truth about status quo economics that ensures poverty and suffering will be created unnecessarily each and every day.
The myth of the meritocracy is one of the most dangerous traditions in capitalist societies. Any society that bans the truth and insists on creating poverty will suffer the the consequences of its anti social philosophy. It’s just cause and effect.


Meritocracy isn’t a distorted economic view because it rewards the wealthy, it’s distorted because it provides an excuse for holding down the non-wealthy. After all, in a meritocracy, they deserve their lot in life.

I think it’s a good idea to nicely point out to folks who are doing very well economically that externalities such as luck have real importance in most people’s well being. Some might be a bit put out over a lack of praise (or obsequiousness), but I’m too old and ornery to care. (OK, sometimes I will offer faint praise or even a bit more.)

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“Meritocracy,” in the US, at least, has always been a myth.

The campaign against affirmative action, which has been going on at least since the Bakke case, is a conservative strategy of bait and switch–They have been able to convince a large percentage of the population that the issue is one of ethnicity and race, while the real imbalance is a class issue–Consider that the current Harvard freshman class is one-third “legacy” students!

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Meritocracy in the system as currently structures translates to “Having no Conscience”. If one lacks a Conscience , they can get ahead.

The system rewards bad behaviour.