Meritocracy

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MarxBro

Re: Meritocracy

Post by MarxBro » Wed Aug 09, 2017 7:16 am

capitalism is about making money and using that money to make more money. not really about 'competence' in any rational sense.

archon
Posts: 59
Joined: Thu May 25, 2017 11:02 am

Re: Meritocracy

Post by archon » Thu Aug 10, 2017 3:35 am

MarxBro wrote:
Wed Aug 09, 2017 7:16 am
capitalism is about making money and using that money to make more money. not really about 'competence' in any rational sense.
How do you define competence?

(again, if you define competence/merit as "Can make money", which is fair because money is exchange-value, the capitalism is meritocratic, because is rewards those traits with money. I think that is not a great definition of merit, and am not actually particularly pro- free market capitalism, but it does do that.)
"Don't be silly -- if we were meant to evolve naturally, why would God have given us subdermal implants?"

phaedrus
Posts: 21
Joined: Mon May 08, 2017 4:01 pm

Re: Meritocracy

Post by phaedrus » Thu Aug 10, 2017 6:38 am

MarxBro wrote:
Wed Aug 09, 2017 7:16 am
capitalism is about making money and using that money to make more money. not really about 'competence' in any rational sense.
Capitalism is about making money and using that money to make more money, yes. One way you can use that money to make more money is to pay people who are good at doing things to do those things, and then sell the fruits of their doing things and take some of the money made by selling said fruits. But if you do this, you have to define "doing things" -- and everyone else also knows this way to use money to make more money, so they're also trying to define "doing things", and you're competing with them.

It's a lot like war that way. Militaries have to be competent; otherwise they lose. In neither case does the system define merit, or even consciously decide to be a meritocracy; its meritocratic properties, to the extent that they exist, emerge from lower-level structures.

Lack of meritocracy is in part due to risk-aversion. On an institutional level, hiring is costly and firing is hard; on a personal level, it'll likely reflect more poorly on you if you make unconventional hiring decisions that don't work out than if you make conventional ones that don't work out. IBM PCs conquered the entire personal computer market not on merit of hardware (they were pretty poor for their time), but because nobody ever got fired for buying IBM. (Which led to IBM PCs getting lots and lots of software, which drove uptake for personal use. But it also helped that IBM was in a hurry to enter the PC market -- after the PC team was formed, they had thirty days to design a working prototype and a year to put something on the market, so it was designed with off-the-shelf parts, resulting in an unusually open architecture, which IBM followed up on by encouraging third-party software development... but the biggest factor was that IBM was IBM.) By the same token, nobody ever got fired for hiring from an Ivy.

MarxBro

Re: Meritocracy

Post by MarxBro » Tue Aug 29, 2017 10:28 am

boy you guys are looking at this extremely narrowly. what 'merit' is there in a Ponzi scheme? what 'merit' is there in the global oil trade which accelerates global warming? what 'merit' is there in skirting safety so much that there's a factory collapse in Bangladesh? 'merit' - as viewed by a capitalist can only be 'merit' for the capitalist class.

archon
Posts: 59
Joined: Thu May 25, 2017 11:02 am

Re: Meritocracy

Post by archon » Fri Sep 01, 2017 3:14 am

MarxBro wrote:
Tue Aug 29, 2017 10:28 am
boy you guys are looking at this extremely narrowly. what 'merit' is there in a Ponzi scheme? what 'merit' is there in the global oil trade which accelerates global warming? what 'merit' is there in skirting safety so much that there's a factory collapse in Bangladesh? 'merit' - as viewed by a capitalist can only be 'merit' for the capitalist class.
Indeed. The capitalist definition of merit is terrible. But it is still meritocratic. When all merit is in having a big pile of money, capitalism is meritocratic. As we said earlier, defining merit is hard, and one of the main flaws in consciously implementing a meritocratic system.
phaedrus wrote:
Thu Aug 10, 2017 6:38 am
Lack of meritocracy is in part due to risk-aversion. On an institutional level, hiring is costly and firing is hard; on a personal level, it'll likely reflect more poorly on you if you make unconventional hiring decisions that don't work out than if you make conventional ones that don't work out. IBM PCs conquered the entire personal computer market not on merit of hardware (they were pretty poor for their time), but because nobody ever got fired for buying IBM. (Which led to IBM PCs getting lots and lots of software, which drove uptake for personal use. But it also helped that IBM was in a hurry to enter the PC market -- after the PC team was formed, they had thirty days to design a working prototype and a year to put something on the market, so it was designed with off-the-shelf parts, resulting in an unusually open architecture, which IBM followed up on by encouraging third-party software development... but the biggest factor was that IBM was IBM.) By the same token, nobody ever got fired for hiring from an Ivy.
Is risk-aversion necessarily un-meritorious? When you look at the accumulation of merit, well, maybe you don't want to take a risk. People being risk-averse in their gambles for merit is not necessarily any worse than them being risk-averse with their money or their health care, or their charity choice. How much risk you are willing to put up with is part of the definition of somethings worth, no?
phaedrus wrote:
Thu Aug 10, 2017 6:38 am
It's a lot like war that way. Militaries have to be competent; otherwise they lose. In neither case does the system define merit, or even consciously decide to be a meritocracy; its meritocratic properties, to the extent that they exist, emerge from lower-level structures.
See this seems like a important insight/distinction/fact-type thing. There is a difference between a emergent system, that rewards some definition of merit, and having a deliberate system to reward what you define as merit. I would still call both a meritocracy (Since I would define a meritocracy as any social/economic system which rewards you for the possession of certain meritorious traits, or doing certain meretricious actions, according to their relative worth (Which is essentially a utility function, though not necessarily the same as one you might use for a moral system). I'm not sure what that means for my statements about risk. I kinda feel like that conversation might be worth having too.

phaedrus
Posts: 21
Joined: Mon May 08, 2017 4:01 pm

Re: Meritocracy

Post by phaedrus » Fri Sep 01, 2017 9:02 pm

archon wrote:
Fri Sep 01, 2017 3:14 am
Is risk-aversion necessarily un-meritorious? When you look at the accumulation of merit, well, maybe you don't want to take a risk. People being risk-averse in their gambles for merit is not necessarily any worse than them being risk-averse with their money or their health care, or their charity choice. How much risk you are willing to put up with is part of the definition of somethings worth, no?
Risk-aversion certainly can be unmeritorious. It's imaginable that, say, big tech companies become so risk-averse that they decide to only hire from Ivies (I'm told that Google is moving in that direction: if you're not from an Ivy and you don't help them make their demographics more palatable to Gawker, you'll face a much more difficult hiring process), and that Ivies become so risk-averse that they decide to only accept legacies, affirmative action admits, and the unfathomably rich. This could be described as a risk-averse meritocracy. It could also be described as a hereditary aristocracy. And big tech companies have no serious competition but each other. It isn't as if Facebook is going to be seriously harmed by hiring Jeb Bush's B-student grandkids -- once you get that big, petty concerns like that stop mattering. (See also: the government of the United States. But its position is probably less secure than Facebook's.)

archon
Posts: 59
Joined: Thu May 25, 2017 11:02 am

Re: Meritocracy

Post by archon » Sat Sep 02, 2017 2:07 pm

phaedrus wrote:
Fri Sep 01, 2017 9:02 pm
archon wrote:
Fri Sep 01, 2017 3:14 am
Is risk-aversion necessarily un-meritorious? When you look at the accumulation of merit, well, maybe you don't want to take a risk. People being risk-averse in their gambles for merit is not necessarily any worse than them being risk-averse with their money or their health care, or their charity choice. How much risk you are willing to put up with is part of the definition of somethings worth, no?
Risk-aversion certainly can be unmeritorious. It's imaginable that, say, big tech companies become so risk-averse that they decide to only hire from Ivies (I'm told that Google is moving in that direction: if you're not from an Ivy and you don't help them make their demographics more palatable to Gawker, you'll face a much more difficult hiring process), and that Ivies become so risk-averse that they decide to only accept legacies, affirmative action admits, and the unfathomably rich. This could be described as a risk-averse meritocracy. It could also be described as a hereditary aristocracy. And big tech companies have no serious competition but each other. It isn't as if Facebook is going to be seriously harmed by hiring Jeb Bush's B-student grandkids -- once you get that big, petty concerns like that stop mattering. (See also: the government of the United States. But its position is probably less secure than Facebook's.)
Ah, I see what you mean. So Risk-Aversion results in hires which are not meritocratic (in that they do not hire based on merit, but instead on name brand). I was thinking more along the lines of risk-aversion being a meritorious action, resulting in ones own promotion (i.e. "No-one got fired for buying IBM", thus making buying IBM a meritorious action for the buyer).

That is one of the reasons why big companies tend to get filled with dead-wood and collapse (as old companies are wont to do). To big to fail is a odd concept, and perhaps one we are too invested in these days (and Facebook vs. US gov. Thats a hard one. Your probably right though, as much as I loath to admit it. I wouldn't bet on either failure.)

Also, the mental image of a aristocracy with affirmative action (now, we don't have enough counts from the southern lands - who wants to give up their ancient house now?).
"Don't be silly -- if we were meant to evolve naturally, why would God have given us subdermal implants?"

MarxBro

Re: Meritocracy

Post by MarxBro » Sun Sep 03, 2017 8:41 am

Indeed. The capitalist definition of merit is terrible. But it is still meritocratic. When all merit is in having a big pile of money, capitalism is meritocratic. As we said earlier, defining merit is hard, and one of the main flaws in consciously implementing a meritocratic system.
This definition of 'merit' is so loose as to be meaningless.

phaedrus
Posts: 21
Joined: Mon May 08, 2017 4:01 pm

Re: Meritocracy

Post by phaedrus » Sun Sep 03, 2017 10:14 pm

archon wrote:
Sat Sep 02, 2017 2:07 pm
Ah, I see what you mean. So Risk-Aversion results in hires which are not meritocratic (in that they do not hire based on merit, but instead on name brand). I was thinking more along the lines of risk-aversion being a meritorious action, resulting in ones own promotion (i.e. "No-one got fired for buying IBM", thus making buying IBM a meritorious action for the buyer).

That is one of the reasons why big companies tend to get filled with dead-wood and collapse (as old companies are wont to do). To big to fail is a odd concept, and perhaps one we are too invested in these days (and Facebook vs. US gov. Thats a hard one. Your probably right though, as much as I loath to admit it. I wouldn't bet on either failure.)

Also, the mental image of a aristocracy with affirmative action (now, we don't have enough counts from the southern lands - who wants to give up their ancient house now?).
That's not what "no one ever got fired for buying IBM" means.

Say your department needs $100k of new computers. Maybe you buy IBM computers and for whatever reason they don't work out -- oh well, these things happen, you know? But IBM is a solid company, and you couldn't have known. Or maybe you buy computers from some company no one's ever heard of and they don't work out -- well, what the hell were you thinking doing that?

It's the same deal with Harvard. If the new hire doesn't work out but has a Harvard degree, oh well, how could you have known? If the new hire was a college dropout, it doesn't matter if 99 of the 100 college dropouts in your hiring pool would've worked out, or even if you've successfully hired college dropouts before, you did something weird and it didn't work out so it's your fault.

The reason you won't get fired for buying IBM is that you're much less likely to face adverse consequences for doing things that don't work out if the things you do are common and respectable. It's not a meritorious action; it's the action that minimizes risk to you.

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