Daniel Markovits: Can We Blame the Meritocracy in America for the Current Crisis?
In Conversation with Andrew Keen on the Keen On
The coronavirus pandemic is dramatically disrupting not only our daily lives but society itself. This show features conversations with some of the world’s leading thinkers and writers about the deeper economic, political, and technological consequences of the pandemic. It’s our new daily podcast trying to make longterm sense out of the chaos of today’s global crisis.
On today’s episode, Daniel Markovits, Yale University Law professor and author of The Meritocracy Trap, discusses the backlash to the meritocracy.
From the episode:
Daniel Markovits: That’s a very good but also very complicated question. On the one hand, meritocracy produced the enormous inequalities—economic, social and political—that we’ve been suffering for some time. Those inequalities then produced the kind of dysfunctional politics and economics, which together has generated the kind of government and state that we now have, which has proved itself unable and unwilling to cope with the pandemic. So the root cause might indeed be meritocratic inequality, but the more immediate cause is a lack of competence and a lack of basic decency in the leadership of the country.
Andrew Keen: Those things are not meritocratic right in the current leader of the United States, at least seems to me to be profoundly anti-meritocratic, even if he is himself a product in some ways of the meritocracy.
Daniel Markovits: Yes, I think, in fact, he is more nearly an old-fashioned aristocrat in the sense that he inherited his privilege, not based on his accomplishments but just by having a father who gave him a massive inheritance. He has run on a backlash against the meritocracy and draws much of his cultural and political power from the hostility that many who’ve been excluded by meritocracy feel against the professional classes.
Daniel Markovits is Guido Calabresi Professor of Law at Yale Law School and Founding Director of the Center for the Study of Private Law. Markovits’s current book, The Meritocracy Trap, places meritocracy at the center of rising economic inequality and social and political dysfunction. The book takes up the law, economics, and politics of human capital to identify the mechanisms through which meritocracy breeds inequality and to expose the burdens that meritocratic inequality imposes on all who fall within meritocracy’s orbit.