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Sun Jun 17, 2012, 11:41 AM

Education will not necessarily result in social & economic justice: Christopher Hayes in The Nation


But this ideal, appealing as it may be, runs up against the reality of what I’ll call the Iron Law of Meritocracy. The Iron Law of Meritocracy states that eventually the inequality produced by a meritocratic system will grow large enough to subvert the mechanisms of mobility. Unequal outcomes make equal opportunity impossible. The Principle of Difference will come to overwhelm the Principle of Mobility. Those who are able to climb up the ladder will find ways to pull it up after them, or to selectively lower it down to allow their friends, allies and kin to scramble up. In other words: “Who says meritocracy says oligarchy.”


The most comprehensive attempt at divining the long-term trends in social mobility over several generations is presented in “Intergenerational Economic Mobility in the US, 1940 to 2000,” a complex paper by economists Daniel Aaronson and Bhashkar Mazumder of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. After a series of maneuvers that qualify as statistical pyrotechnics, they conclude that “mobility increased from 1950 to 1980 but has declined sharply since 1980. The recent decline in mobility is only partially explained by education.”

I'm thinking about the effects of this upon outcomes of various types, not just in education, but also amongst students trying to enter the work force with MAJOR debt on their backs, and then also in reactionary work places that suffer the economic consequences of never getting ahead of the curve because no one requires that the Meritocracy cease being a mediocracy.

The frustrations that follow failed elites MUST be costing our country unfathomable loss of wealth.

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