Friday, November 11, 2011

A meritocracy: material and societal gains due to merit.... or not.

Today we were discussing Nozick's Entitlement theory, and our example featured a meritocracy. In this theoretical meritocracy, Will Chamberlain receives a lot of money solely because of his "merit"--which include his talents and/or hard work. But his children receive that money when he dies. I think that my issue with this fact is not in the entitlement aspect. According to Nozick's transfer principle, it is absolutely just that Chamberlain's children receive his money. But our example featured a meritocracy. His children receive money not because of their talents or hard work, but because of that of their father. I think this really can't be paired with a meritocracy. By definition, this is not a meritocracy, because they haven't earned what they have by talent or hard work. I just can't get around that.
Somewhat related to that is my interest in seeing how Nozick's theory would play out in an egalitarian society. Doctor J said Nozick and Marx would just be like, "Agree to disagree then...," but I really am interested to see in particular how Marx would address natural differences causing respect and affirmation from society, as well as material gain. Does anyone have any ideas?


  1. Aubrey,
    I agree with you that in a meritocracy, people have to earn their goods and I got your point that simply by being someone's child, you don't deserve these goods. But is that really the case? I mean, what would be the alternative? A system in which the whole wealth is reset after somebody died? Everybody has to start with the same chances, so to say at point zero? How could we realize that?
    Personally, I belief that Will's children “deserve” their goods in a way, because it was their father who left it. Of course, it is not equal, but taking it away would be equal, but not fair.

  2. It may seem unfair that an individual receives a large inheritance because his/her parents were wealthy; whereas, another individual may not receive anything because his/her parents may not have been wealthy. However, I think the transfer principle was created to ensure an individual's right to dictate where his/her money will go to. If you check out he following news article about Bill Gates you will see that the richest man in the world is not keeping all his money in the family- he is giving a lot of his money away to meaningful charities.
    A person would not think it unfair if a person gives their money to a charity- it is their money, it should be their choice. Why should it be any different if a person's choice is to give their money to their children?

  3. The whole point of the example was that no matter what kind of system of government you begin with, in the end it will become unequal because the entitlement theory is just and always leads to inequality. Even with an egalitarian system, some people will spend more money than others leaving less for their children to inherit. Or others may give while they are alive, and those on the recieivng end will have more. This once again proves that no matter what type of government system you adopt, if it is run justly the entitlement theory will be applied and inequality will emerge. Inequality doesn't mean that it isn't just.


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