Nepotism in the US

tomar

Ad Honoris
Jan 2011
13,893
Sure, it is not theoretically possible - my point is simply that in practice, "merit" is a bit subjective, and that the usual ways to get wealthy and powerful by "merit" (meaning what? Who decides what is meritorious? Is having a system where people get positions according to their scores on autistic standardized tests better than a feudal aristocracy? Why?) still end up with whoever passes all the tests and wins in a privileged position...

The real value is character, and that can come about in many ways, from many backgrounds - that is my main point. Proponents of meritocracy often tend to take a too narrow view of what "merit" means, I think
Well "merit" is supposed to be measurable... For example in academia, it could be your test score, in sports, your performance (how man seconds for the 100 meter dash or how high you can jump etc...) , in the military, your tactical ability etc....

Meritocracy is supposed to be better for 2 reasons:

1- Society gets the "best " people for the job
2- Everyone theoretically gets a chance to be selected (as opposed to a system where you have to be "born right" to be eligible)

Why is meritocracy better ? Well imagine the surgeon who is going to operate on you, or the pilot who is going to fly the plane you are in, have been selected due to nepotism and have no real qualifications....Or do you prefer them to be properly selected , trained and tested before they are allowed to operate on you or fly your plane ?
 

tomar

Ad Honoris
Jan 2011
13,893
I am just trying to find the line here. When does it become nepotism? If bribes are involved? or authorities? Giving a good word about my son to a Hollywood producer I know, is that nepotism?
Giving a "good word" is not a problem as long as the person is selected -like everyone else- based on objective criteria... If the only criteria is "he/she has been recommended by someone we owe" then its a huge problem... I dont know which country you are from/have lived in, but I have lived in a few countries where that's the way it works... You dont get the right jobs if you dont have the right recommendations... It has a terrible effect on society as a whole (it becomes a society of "boot lickers") and on the overall economic performance of that country...
Again in the exagerated example imagine your surgeon / pilot etc... has been selected only because someone with the right influence put in a few "good words"....
 

tomar

Ad Honoris
Jan 2011
13,893
To take an example I often take here: In Sweden we have a number of industrial families that have been quite prominent for the past 200 years. Is this nepotism? They give their money and power and Influence to "Friends and relatives" after all, and control very much of the country's economy.

I would say this is only bad and truly "nepotistic" if the family members and friends turn out to be incompetent and corrupt. This is not necessarily the case...
Well the other problem is that you need social acceptance... i.e if you are not born in that circle , you need to accept your fate as a -at best- middle class member with no little or no say in your country's affairs......
 
Oct 2012
813
Giving a "good word" is not a problem as long as the person is selected -like everyone else- based on objective criteria... If the only criteria is "he/she has been recommended by someone we owe" then its a huge problem... I dont know which country you are from/have lived in, but I have lived in a few countries where that's the way it works... You dont get the right jobs if you dont have the right recommendations... It has a terrible effect on society as a whole (it becomes a society of "boot lickers") and on the overall economic performance of that country...
Again in the exagerated example imagine your surgeon / pilot etc... has been selected only because someone with the right influence put in a few "good words"....
I am not denying the problem.
 
Apr 2018
979
Upland, Sweden
Well "merit" is supposed to be measurable... For example in academia, it could be your test score, in sports, your performance (how man seconds for the 100 meter dash or how high you can jump etc...) , in the military, your tactical ability etc....
This is precisely my problem with "meritocracy". It isn't measurable in the real world - is it? As soon as you make something measurable you are also making it strictly defined, and killing all the statistical outliers. I would argue that one of the worst aspects of "meritocracy" is that you get less natural variety among the Elite, which hurts society in the long run. This way you get closeminded middle brow bureaucrats who think like social engineers as leaders. Like Nietzsche's "bug men" if I may be so bold.

Meritocracy is supposed to be better for 2 reasons:

1- Society gets the "best " people for the job
2- Everyone theoretically gets a chance to be selected (as opposed to a system where you have to be "born right" to be eligible)

Why is meritocracy better ? Well imagine the surgeon who is going to operate on you, or the pilot who is going to fly the plane you are in, have been selected due to nepotism and have no real qualifications....Or do you prefer them to be properly selected , trained and tested before they are allowed to operate on you or fly your plane ?
I absolutely agree that there has to be a selection mechanism of some kind (I would like many kinds of selection mechanisms) - and that there has to be some social mobility. In some jobs and careers this is easier than others. For example, having a pilot who can fly a plane, a lawyer who knows the law or a Yoga trainer who knows Yoga is obviously be a good thing. these things can, to a degree, be tested.

In many cases though, knowledge is not so easily quantifiable. I would make the case that the higher up om the social hierarchy you get the less strictly defined are also the social functions being performed.

What "merits" should a prime minister have? Should we have a test for it? How about a CEO? These things are not possible, as to be a good leader you need vision. You need to think outside the box, and not just apply recieved thinking. As soon as you try to make these things "measurable" you are simultaneously, by definition, killing individual initiative and originality.

Another case aristocracy (broadly defined) has speaking for it is that someone who is rich is not going to care about bribes of various kinds, but can instead afford to be honest.

This is why I say that character is the most important thing in your Elite. It is a more flexible term than merit, and in the end is more relevant I think. Ability is not unimportant, but what you actually want to do with your power is more important, and will in the end also shape your ability.
 
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Apr 2018
979
Upland, Sweden
Well the other problem is that you need social acceptance... i.e if you are not born in that circle , you need to accept your fate as a -at best- middle class member with no little or no say in your country's affairs......
Or you can demand that the priviliged pay their dues to society by lifting up the most gifted members of the middle class and making them one of their own - as well as doing their part to care for the national interest, by caring about Swedish jobs, our welfare state and our national competetiveness? Disproportionate power =/= absolute power. Just because there is a natural elite doesn't mean that elite should be able to what it wants with no constraints. Just because there is continuity doesn't mean that something is unchanging. These things are in fact the opposite of what I am saying. There has to be balance, but having "meritocracy" as some kind of goal in itself I very much disagree with.

The mechanisms we usually associate with "meritocracy" often do not create an elite that is beneficial to society. Also, a "meritocracy" often does a very bad job of creating real constraints on power once "the worthy" are in power. After all, they deserve to be there, don't they?

This doesn't mean I want to reintroduce the feudal society, what I am saying though is that the current system with too much emphasis on formal qualifications and various things like that often create people who are very good at lying, manipulating language, rules and acing tests but who lack courage and moral character - all the while teaching the people who go through these systems that they "deserve" to be there and teaching them no humility. This is in some ways a worse situation than the decadence of the old aristocracy. At least they couldn't pretend that they were not priviliged...
 
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tomar

Ad Honoris
Jan 2011
13,893
This is precisely my problem with "meritocracy". It isn't measurable in the real world - is it? As soon as you make something measurable you are also making it strictly defined, and killing all the statistical outliers. I would argue that one of the worst aspects of "meritocracy" is that you get less natural variety among the Elite, which hurts society in the long run. This way you get closeminded middle brow bureaucrats who think like social engineers as leaders. Like Nietzsche's "bug men" if I may be so bold.


What "merits" should a prime minister have? Should we have a test for it? How about a CEO? These things are not possible, as to be a good leader you need vision. You need to think outside the box, and not just apply recieved thinking. As soon as you try to make these things "measurable" you are simultaneously, by definition, killing individual initiative and originality.
Well, you are right that certain positions/jobs are less objectively measurable than others (or we have not learned how to objectively measure them)....
Personnally I dont really like the concept of "Vision" (as I think Adenauer said "If you have visions you must go to the psychiatrist).. There are many qualities required for a "good" leader (and I suspect no 2 people will quite agree on what a "good" leader is)..... I'd like to think that if there were meritocratic safeguards in place people such as Hitler or Staline would not have made it to power..... Where as with privileges it is always possible (how many "mad" kings in european history?)

The point you are making is currently a hot topic in France... in France there is a school called ENA (national school of administration) through which most of the top civil servants go... The issue is that they are then "formatted" to a certain standard and have difficulty thinking outside of the ENA box .....

What is the answer to that I am not quite sure..... Probably more checks and balances and limits on terms (if a president is limited to 2 terms, so should probably a CEO)
 

tomar

Ad Honoris
Jan 2011
13,893
Or you can demand that the priviliged pay their dues to society by lifting up the most gifted members of the middle class and making them one of their own - as well as doing their part to care for the national interest, by caring about Swedish jobs, our welfare state and our national competetiveness? Disproportionate power =/= absolute power. Just because there is a natural elite doesn't mean that elite should be able to what it wants with no constraints. Just because there is continuity doesn't mean that something is unchanging. These things are in fact the opposite of what I am saying. There has to be balance, but having "meritocracy" as some kind of goal in itself I very much disagree with.

The mechanisms we usually associate with "meritocracy" often do not create an elite that is beneficial to society. Also, a "meritocracy" often does a very bad job of creating real constraints on power once "the worthy" are in power. After all, they deserve to be there, don't they?

This doesn't mean I want to reintroduce the feudal society, what I am saying though is that the current system with too much emphasis on formal qualifications and various things like that often create people who are very good at lying, manipulating language, rules and acing tests but who lack courage and moral character - all the while teaching the people who go through these systems that they "deserve" to be there and teaching them no humility. This is in some ways a worse situation than the decadence of the old aristocracy. At least they couldn't pretend that they were not priviliged...

Well you can demand (and some do, see the "Gilets Jaunes" movement in France).... but why would those who hold power and privileges care about your demands (other perhaps than a few cosmetic gestures of the "panem and circenses" variety to avoid large scale disturbances) ?

Character is important but it does not come from being born in a privileged family (arguably the less privileges one had at birth, the more chance to get better character)... It has been noted that in several european countries there used to be a class of civil servants devoted to their country..... whereas nowadays they are devoted to money..... when a former president can make "lectures" and be paid several 100K$ per hour for each, something is clearly wrong.... (no one pays that kind of money just to listen to a former politican talk -they can listen for free on any news channel-.... so they are either paying for services already rendered or for influence peddling)
 
Oct 2012
813
Well you can demand (and some do, see the "Gilets Jaunes" movement in France).... but why would those who hold power and privileges care about your demands (other perhaps than a few cosmetic gestures of the "panem and circenses" variety to avoid large scale disturbances) ?

Character is important but it does not come from being born in a privileged family (arguably the less privileges one had at birth, the more chance to get better character)... It has been noted that in several european countries there used to be a class of civil servants devoted to their country..... whereas nowadays they are devoted to money..... when a former president can make "lectures" and be paid several 100K$ per hour for each, something is clearly wrong.... (no one pays that kind of money just to listen to a former politican talk -they can listen for free on any news channel-.... so they are either paying for services already rendered or for influence peddling)
I am not sure about the part "less privileges-better character". Those people have usually a very large chip on their shoulder.
 
Apr 2018
979
Upland, Sweden
Well, you are right that certain positions/jobs are less objectively measurable than others (or we have not learned how to objectively measure them)....
I lean more towards the first. I wish we would stop trying so much to measure certain things (like leadership ability), not only is it a conplete waste of time but it is also actively dangerous to society, I would say.

Personnally I dont really like the concept of "Vision" (as I think Adenauer said "If you have visions you must go to the psychiatrist).. There are many qualities required for a "good" leader (and I suspect no 2 people will quite agree on what a "good" leader is)..... I'd like to think that if there were meritocratic safeguards in place people such as Hitler or Staline would not have made it to power..... Where as with privileges it is always possible (how many "mad" kings in european history?)
You have a point that vision can be dangerous if taken too far, and when taken by people with poor character. The absence of it can also be dangerous however, as I would argue the current situation across the West proves. You focus on the mad Kings, I focus on the fact that most rulers in history (even Europeans history) have been monarchs of various kinds.

Weimar Germany had meritocratic safeguards, yet that didn't stop Hitler from coming to power. I think if Wilhelm II had been left om the throne there is a great chance Germany would not have had Hitler. Similarly, Britain, France and the United States were all "meritocratic" and liberal, and yet they were all either compliant or apathetic towards Hitler, and failed to see the threat he posed in time, instead only caring about short term stability.

I think bureaucracies (because all "meritocratic" solutions you have proposed are essentially bureaucratic in nature) are singularly ill equipped to deal with rapid changes and unforseen events. They mistake their rules and various abstract little ideas for reality. Just like biological diversity is good for nature, a diversity of selection mechanisms and incentives for its leaders is good for society, instead of trying to make everything "fair" whatever that means.

The point you are making is currently a hot topic in France... in France there is a school called ENA (national school of administration) through which most of the top civil servants go... The issue is that they are then "formatted" to a certain standard and have difficulty thinking outside of the ENA box .....

What is the answer to that I am not quite sure..... Probably more checks and balances and limits on terms (if a president is limited to 2 terms, so should probably a CEO)
Exactly! You should cancel ENA and throw out the Enarques! :D

I think "checks and balances" might make the problem worse. Who is going to design the checks and balances? The Enarques, most likely - yes? The only kind of check and balance I can think of that might work in the longterm is to try to increase the areas of public life that are unregulated by the French central government, which obviously the Enarques won't like, and neither will many of the Gilets Jaunes probably who nodoubt (as many discontented people who demonstrate) want their particular kind of justice to be applied to everything.

As soon as you create a new rule you create something new that can be manipulated by lawyers and administrators. I like keeping things simple.
 
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