Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Meritocracy Round 3

Continuing from Round 1 and Round 2, right into chapter 4 which deals with private industry and the transition from seniority to merit based advancement.  Because age is as inefficient a measurement of worth as what class you are born of the "class" of old men had to be by passed or the meritocracy would have been another gerontocracy.  The result was a blend of the best of the American model and British education meritocracy model , competition for life.  Prior to WWII the lure of a steady paycheck would pluck students away from education into industry but an unnamed act in 1944 (I assume mandatory primary education or something similar) started to slow the flow of able minded from school to industry.  This forced industry to recruit from grammar school and university.  The author bats away the notion that people trained in a specific industry would be better capable of running the businesses than generally educated students with no industry experience (I can think of several instances of this being proved decidedly wrong already).  Because the competition for the best talent was leading to some abuses the government stepped in and began allocating talent to industry as it suited the national agenda.  Essentially pouring brains from the school "factory" into the industries that the government wanted to grow.  This put the government in total control of industry and the economy (the potential for and probable actual occurrence of abuse should this type of a system ever be implemented are so obvious I hope it would deter the building of such a system).

While the advancement of merit in the schools was releatively smooth, in industry seniority was more deeply ingrained and harder to route.  The deference to older people was (somewhat literally) beaten into school children by larger and older children and stayed with them for life.  The socialist movement that supplanted the legitimacy of inheritance was also working against rule by the old, but it proceeded rather piecemeal with individual old men being dethroned rather than all at once.  This was likely due to the age war being less cut and dry than the wealthy vs poor as some on both sides of the age divide where not true to their own interests.  Particularly so where those that had to change jobs; they didn't want to have to start over as an apprentice so they argued for merit based placement.  A major stumbling block for the seniority system was the set retirement date, if someone wanted to advance someone else had to retire for the rung on the ladder to open up, and people that stayed on past retirement delayed the advancement of many people below them.  It was those people that didn't want to retire that argued for merit as a way to judge that their abilities had not declined so far as to necessitate they leave.  One of the reasons it was so difficult was the ease with which it could be measured, and Unions favored it because injustice was simple to spot.  This argument fell by the wayside as more effective methods of measuring merit where developed as well as increased transparency of the merit scores to remedy the mistrust.  It was because you could go down to the central testing facilities and look up the scores of your peers you where assured that they had the position they deserved.

As this is the final Chapter in part one the author summarizes his points really exceptionally well,  and sets up the second half of the book that will examine why it may be that the less educated are rising up against the meritocracy by looking at the social structure that the Meritocracy has created.  He warns that though the few of the lower class are exceptional, as a mass they are formidable.  In particular Young identifies two types of people that form the lower class.  The majority being the unintelligent children of unintelligent people, and the minority being the stupid children of brilliant people.  For the latter group Young points out that they where born into luxury, and unable to attain it for themselves.  In ages gone by their parents could have heaped resources on them to make sure that they maintained some of the comforts of their childhood, but the discontent of having to live poorly after knowing such highs must be particularly acute.  Given that they are almost universally inarticulate it's no wonder that they support the (fictional) revolt that has given them a voice where before they had none.

Continue to Part 4 >>>

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