Getting to the top socially and economically through one’s own merits is today, in general, a myth. In the first place, because equal opportunities continues to be and is very far away, impossible .
The gap between winners and losers has only widened in recent decades in Western societies, so that societies have been more polarized and unequal in both income and wealth.
The very concept of success has also varied: “Those who have reached the top believe that their success is their doing, evidence of their superior merit, and that those left behind equally deserve their fate”, explains the philosopher from the University of Harvard Michael Sandel, 2018 Princess of Asturias Award for Social Sciences and author of the book The Tyranny of Merit (Debate).
Indeed, without leaving our country, being born into low-income families conditions educational and professional development opportunities, and this to a greater extent than in other European countries.
According to economist Robert H. Frank, “talent and effort yield little in the absence of a well-developed social environment.” Frank also points to one of the pernicious effects of meritocracy: “People who overlook the contribution to their success of an enabling environment are less willing to support the public investments necessary to maintain that environment.”
For her part, University of London sociologist Jo Littler, author of Against Meritocracy: Culture, Power and Myths of Mobility , points out: “The idea of meritocracy is used so that a deeply unequal social system seems fair when it is not. “
Sergio C. Fanjul has written the following very wise words for this purpose: “[??] under the meritocratic idea that the one who works the most will be the one who achieves the most: the road to success is usually a solitary struggle and in against others, which has little to do with collective progress. The media and bookstore shelves are full of moralizing examples of self-improvement and manuals for ascending to the top, many times starting from most adverse conditions “.
Meritocracy has an origin as willful as it is progressive, since it overthrew the aristocratic system that has dominated most of human history , the one in which privileges are inherited from generation to generation. “People were allowed to advance not based on their upbringing, but on their own achievements,” says Yale University jurist Daniel Markovits, author of The Meritocracy Trap .
In short, in the long term, meritocracy has only served to increase inequalities, which in recent years have only grown, and to alleviate these inequalities it is necessary to insist on applying efficient education and reducing unemployment at all costs. Something that President Biden wants and that Robert H. Frank has written like this : “The best political response to the inequality produced by luck is to get more public investment, taxing the rich more.”