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On Meritocracy, some recent observations

Some of us have heard much ado in the news about the sexual discrimination lawsuit of Ellen K. Pao recently, (which she lost).  http://www.theverge.com/2015/4/2/8328115/ellen-pao-kleiner-perkins-venture-capital-verdict

It got me into some discussions with some friends about discrimination, particularly in employment, which led to some interesting questions:  What is discrimination?  and why do people do it?

To answer it simply:  We all discriminate.  We like or dislike, we prefer or avoid, we aspire or disincline.  Good or evil, every time we make the slightest choice between two things, every decision, is in essence, Discrimination.

If you choose someone to be a friend, you are discriminating.

If you choose someone to be a potential candidate for spouse, you are discriminating.

So, the 2nd part of this is:  Not all discrimination is Bad.

We all have to prioritize, we all choose things based on our own personal preferences.

So, what makes some discrimination bad?

If you choose a wife, ONLY because her family is rich, that’s kinda bad, right?  (At least some what unethical)  But then again, if you REALLY love her because she’s rich, then I think that might be OK too, (since you can’t tell the difference between Love of person and love of wealth).

But some discrimination can be very Good.

If I fire someone for bad job performance, then that’s very good kind of discrimination.  Sorry, I hate to fire people, but I rather fire someone for bad job performance.  That would seem to be just.  If I don’t discriminate between the good workers and the bad ones, then good workers would not see any point in doing good work, or having “merit”.  But to know the good kind of discrimination, we must define “merit”:  Which must be that which RELATES to the goal of good discrimination.  That is, the Merit must have a proper Standard so that the Discrimination can be done properly and efficiently.

If I want to buy the Strongest steel, but you decide to buy the cheapest, you are misjudging the Merit of what I wanted.  Likewise, if a good worker is determined (even partially) based upon gender or race, the employer is not practicing meritocracy.

Ellen Pao’s story is not new.  There are currently 2 other Bay Area female Asian executives suing their former employers for sexual discrimination (1 against Facebook, another against Twitter), despite the PR claims of progressive cultures of US High Tech industry.  Many of us have encountered evident racial discrimination in the same field.

Is it inevitable?  I do not think so.

In fact, I believe that Meritocracy is inevitable.  We are only stopped, because we believe in a myth of power imbalance, which does not exist.

Meritocracy is not controlled top down, but rather a mutual social contract that always exists.  (Precisely because ALL of us discriminates).  Yes, employers can discriminate, but so can employees.

Good employees get better jobs.  Good companies retain better employees and make more money.

This is the 2 way social contract of Meritocracy.

With the context of rise of China, Meritocracy is particularly well reasoned, because it speaks volume of “Vote with your feet.”

Forget “Rule of Law” or “Rule by Law”.  It is “Rule by the Feet of the People”.

Forget whether Ellen Pao’s lawsuit verdict was fair or unfair, in the long run, if her former employer was really bad, it wouldn’t last very long.  If she’s a good worker, she will do well no matter what.

Forget whether the votes are countered precisely enough in which state, or whether that’s really “representative” of the People.  A good political system of meritocracy needs no ballots or votes, it only needs good people to work for it and to reward them for it.

If you don’t believe that’s a good enough system and absolutely need your votes, that’s OK.  That’s your discrimination, your choice.  Let’s hope the system of votes will reward you fairly, instead of trying to shrink your rights.

That’s the last thing.  There is no “rights”.  There is only the reward of “rights” from having merits in a meritocracy.  On that point, I think that was what Ayn Rand was actually trying to say, but failed miserably at attempting it.  Ayn Rand went off the reservation with her ideology of “pure self-interest” type discrimination, which really justifies even the irrational kinds of self-interests.  That is not meritocracy, that is not a good enough social contract.

Meritocracy demands that if someone is discriminating unfairly, then they should be called out as meritless and irrational.  In this fashion, the system of meritocracy does more than merely function by pure competition, but rather it functions by everyone having similar expectations of self-betterment, instead of merely gaming the system.


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