Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Equality or meritocracy?

According to a recent BBC News article, Equalities Minister Harriet Harman has stressed the importance of tackling inequality "for the sake of a strong and meritocratic economy".

She has commissioned a report entitled "An Anatomy of Economic Inequality in the UK".

While it is true that in a meritocratic society we would expect to see smaller gaps between those from different social backgrounds, the socialist dream of equality is the antithesis of meritocracy. People are naturally unequal, both in their talents and in their industriousness. Welfare handouts and rhetoric about "disadvantaged classes" do not promote aspiration; they simply reinforce feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness. Comprehensive schooling, which disregards differences in ability, only serves to keep down the talented among those who cannot afford private education. If New Labour truly believed in meritocracy, we would have seen very different policies over the last 12 years.

As Tom Paine puts it:
A rational society strives for quality, not equality. It strives to give those who have talent the maximum incentive to deploy it. A vibrant society that efficiently harnesses the energies of its most talented members is a richer society overall. The creations of the creative and the output of the industrious may fill their bank accounts more than others, but their effort benefits all. The corollary of that is that the idleness of others, costs everyone. A rational society therefore incentivises effort and never rewards idleness. In pursuit of the chimera of "equality" Britain has adopted precisely the opposite approach. Now we can see that, even in its own terms, it doesn't work.

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