Meritocracy: Balancing Fairness and Reality in Society
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Meritocracy: Balancing Fairness and Reality in Society

“Talent and effort yield little in the absence of a well-developed social environment,” says economist Robert H. Frank of Cornell University, author of the book “Success and Luck: Good Fortune and the Myth of Meritocracy.”

What Is Meritocracy? Meritocracy is a system that advocates rewards and promotions based on individual merit. In theory, it seems fair as it rewards dedication and personal performance.

The Debate Around Meritocracy

However, the issue is more complex than it appears, as economist Robert H. Frank of Cornell University points out. An individual’s talent and effort can yield little in the absence of a well-developed social environment.

Let’s provide an illustrative example:

Two of my cousins were having a conversation, and the disparities in their life experiences were striking. Unfortunately, one of them grew up in an unfavorable environment, with a dysfunctional family, no access to family support, the internet, or financial resources to pay for transportation and education. On the other hand, the other cousin attended the best schools, was picked up by a van at the door of the house, received an allowance, and had parents with excellent financial conditions, providing a solid foundation.

In their conversation, even though the more fortunate cousin wanted to help, he often made comparisons between them, as if financial outcomes depended primarily on individual effort. However, he failed to realize the significant advantages he had compared to his cousin, making these comparisons deeply unfair.

This problem of disregarding people’s different initial circumstances can manifest in various ways in our society.

The Initial Inequality

The central problem of meritocracy lies in the fact that, in real life, not everyone starts from the same point. Social inequality is a reality that profoundly affects how people access opportunities and resources from the beginning. Therefore, the idea that success is solely the result of merit does not take into account these initial inequalities.

Justice or Inequality?

On one hand, meritocracy can be seen as a fair model by some because it rewards those who work hardest and excel. Institutions following this model promote individuals based on personal merits such as competence, effort, competition, and intelligence, without considering factors like social background, wealth, or personal connections.

Meritocracy in My View

Meritocracy is a concept that is often analyzed from a personal perspective and consequently shaped by our own reality. This means that how we understand and apply meritocracy can vary depending on our role in society. For example, if I were a politician, my analysis of this concept would be broad, considering its impact on society as a whole. On the other hand, if I were a business owner, my analysis would primarily focus on my organization’s context.

The Political Perspective

As a politician, my responsibility would be to analyze meritocracy comprehensively, taking into account how it affects society as a whole. This means evaluating how public policies, social programs, and educational opportunities can influence people’s ability to achieve success based on their individual merits. It would be crucial to consider how factors such as income inequality, access to resources, and equal opportunities can impact the fair application of meritocracy in our society.

The Business Perspective

On the other hand, as a business owner, my analysis of meritocracy would be more focused on the organizational environment. I would be interested in how individual merit, such as competence, effort, and performance, influences hiring, promotion, and reward decisions within my company. However, it would also be important to recognize that, even in a business context, external factors like the availability of resources and equal access to educational opportunities can affect employees’ ability to demonstrate their merit.

Challenges of Meritocracy in Businesses

However, the application of meritocracy is not always straightforward. In businesses, situations can arise where dedicated and talented employees see less diligent colleagues promoted due to criteria like seniority, friendships, and non-performance factors. This can demotivate teams and undermine the fairness of the system, leading to reduced company performance.

In summary, meritocracy is a complex and controversial concept. While it may seem fair to reward effort and individual merit, we must be aware of the initial inequalities that affect our society. In an ideal world, merit would be the sole measure of success, but in practice, reality is much more complicated.

I hope you have enjoyed this article, and it has sparked interesting reflections on meritocracy in our society. As always, I am open to hearing your opinions and comments. Until next time!

“The world is unfair; it always has been and always will be. You have two options: lament its unfairness or solve your problem.” – Flávio Augusto