« Open Source and the Enterprise Infrastructure Stack | Main | Prisoners of context »

January 06, 2005

End of Meritocracy in America - I think not!!!

The Economist is one of my favorite magazines.  I try to never miss an issue.   That is why it disappointed me to read their special survey on meritocracy in America.   Registration is sometimes required to access the article so for those who cannot access it, the Economist makes the following points:

  1. Income inequality has reached levels not seen since the Gilded age
  2. Past few presidential candidates have been "dynasty" candidates
  3. Percentage of people who move from the bottom fifth of society to the top fifth has declined

And they end the piece with this conclusion:

In his classic “The Promise of American Life”, Herbert Crowley noted that “a democracy, not less than a monarchy or an aristocracy, must recognize political, economic, and social distinctions, but it must also withdraw its consent whenever these discriminations show any tendency to excessive endurance.” So far Americans have been fairly tolerant of economic distinctions. But that tolerance may not last for ever, if the current trend towards “excessive endurance” is not reversed.

I feel they have made quite a few leaps of logic to make this conclusion:

  1. Income inequality is by itself not an indicator of lack of meritocracy.  If meritocracy means that people are rewarded on the basis of merit that unless we all had the same merit, we should get rewarded differently.  In fact rise of income inequality might actually signal more meritocracy because we have figured out better how to reward merit and punish non-merit!!
  2. Looking at Presidential candidates to make a conclusion is the kind of anecdotal arm chair analysis that you don't expect of the Economist.  Better statistics to look at are the stats for congressmen and senators as well as the stats for city and state seats.  In the last 10 years the percentage of women in politics has gone up considerably in America.  If you look at anecdotal evidence, Louisiana elected two Asian congressman in 2004 (one Asian Indian and one Arab American).  That's anecdotal progress
  3. Percentage of people moving up from the bottom to the top is not meaningful unless we also know some thing about their ability or merit.  Meritocracy does not mean musical chairs.  It means society rewards people based on their merit rather than based on their race/class/pedigree. 

From a personal standpoint, I find the Economist article very off base.  Every week I meet close to approximately 10 companies looking for money and more than half of them have been founded by entrepreneurs who are immigrants or folks from modest backgrounds.  Of the five companies I sit on the board of, 3 are founded by immigrants who came to this country with no money and no connections. I am sure my experience is not dissimilar from other venture capitalists.

My Economist correspondent you are wrong with your conclusion and if you don't believe me, just head down to Silicon Valley and check out some of her startups.

Posted by Venky Ganesan at 08:47 AM in Current Affairs, Economics | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference End of Meritocracy in America - I think not!!!:

» Rapid Response: Mothers, how we need them from no one gets hurt,
common sense and common decency. So look around the playground, across the [Read More]

Tracked on May 16, 2006 4:33:42 AM

» Help for Chronic Insomnia Isn't Always Found in a Pill from form of psychotherapy
therapists have demonstrated the effectiveness of a brief form of psychotherapy called cognitive behavioral therapy [Read More]

Tracked on May 24, 2006 8:16:33 AM

» Stephen A. Smith: James Steps Up in Postseason from THE PHILADELPHIA
is leading everyone by averaging 35.7 points, while also shooting 51 percent, in his first-ever [Read More]

Tracked on May 24, 2006 6:27:21 PM

» Nets Regain Balance, Knot Series Against Indiana from partook in the
NEWS, Filip Bondy writes that the Nets were Vin-sensible last night. They spread their offense, played [Read More]

Tracked on May 27, 2006 9:55:19 PM

» Cavaliers Proving They Belong in Postseason from and teammates
Pistons power forward Rasheed Wallace hurled prophesies of doom at Cavaliers Nation on [Read More]

Tracked on May 28, 2006 7:56:46 PM

» Saving Seoul from in much of urban
is ruining the quality of life in much of urban Asia. But Seoul's transformation into a greener city proves the tide [Read More]

Tracked on May 29, 2006 4:33:10 AM

» Following Stalemate, Series Now Officially On from Greg Cote in
by Pat Riley in a dream. No way 25-4 can be an actual NBA score, can it? Isn't that [Read More]

Tracked on May 29, 2006 7:50:29 PM

» Will Neo-Nazis Disrupt the World Cup? from upsurge in far-right
in far-right attacks is causing concern in Germany as the soccer tournament nears [Read More]

Tracked on May 30, 2006 11:00:06 PM

» Dual Slalom and Trial Bikes from SPB Bike
New super stiff 6061 alloy frame, hydroformed octagon tubing. Front: Topgun SCT-08, 80mm. Components: Shimano Acera/Altus 21 speed. Saracen XRAY 1 ... [Read More]

Tracked on Jun 6, 2006 12:43:20 PM

» Venture All Stars featuring ESRI Podcast Show: Part's 1 and 2 from discusses using
team discusses using rich internet mapping applications to help solve business problems. [Read More]

Tracked on Jun 6, 2006 8:17:28 PM

» 511 Rideshare Rewards Program Recruits 231 Carpoolers in Just One Month; Agency Now Launches Interactive Online Game to Promote Ridesharing from and Safeway gift
carpool adventure game to encourage ridesharing. (PRWEB Jun 1, 2006) Trackback URL: http://www.prweb.com/chachingpr.php/Q291cC1NYWduLVByb2YtUHJvZi1IYWxmLVplcm8= [Read More]

Tracked on Jun 7, 2006 2:06:07 PM

» Americans Support Free Access To Research - Majority Believes Federally Funded Research Should Be Publicly Available from that "if tax
for scientific research, people should have free access to the results of the research on the Internet. [Read More]

Tracked on Jun 7, 2006 8:05:36 PM

» Has AdSense? Lost its Appeal to Many Web Site Owners? from is AdSense,
the internet, on countless web sites and loved and adored by those that are seeking easy riches for little effort. But.... is AdSense, [Read More]

Tracked on Jun 8, 2006 12:16:13 PM

» Affinity4 Brings a New Standard for Giving to Hampton Roads, VA from and helping them
Affinity4, focuses on nonprofits and has given back over $75 million dollars to charities and nonprofits worldwide. [Read More]

Tracked on Jun 8, 2006 7:29:18 PM

» Sri Lanka Talks With Rebels Collapse from Between Sri Lanka's
Between Sri Lanka's Government and Tamil Rebels Collapse in Norway [Read More]

Tracked on Jun 9, 2006 9:58:20 AM

» National aid neededfor a domestic crisis from homes, cook our
clean our homes, cook our meals and wash our clothes. Yet for all their hard labor, domestic workers are [Read More]

Tracked on Jun 10, 2006 12:31:06 AM

» Even New Orleans' luckiest worried after Katrina (Reuters) from Katrina are losing
who fared the best in Hurricane Katrina are losing sleep and worried about the future, a survey presented on Monday showed. [Read More]

Tracked on Jun 10, 2006 11:35:29 AM

» Annuity IQ Announces Web Based Platform for Variable Annuity Information from and brokers now
(PRWEB Jun 8, 2006) Trackback URL: http://prweb.com/pingpr.php/WmV0YS1Qcm9mLUluc2UtRW1wdC1JbnNlLVplcm8= [Read More]

Tracked on Jun 11, 2006 4:30:29 PM

» Economy On Hot Pace from in 2 years and
three months of this year, the fastest in 2 years and stronger than first estimated, the Commerce [Read More]

Tracked on Jun 13, 2006 2:56:19 PM

» "Hypnotherapy can relieve chest pain" from two newspapers
reported the reliable results from a small randomised controlled trial. Further research [Read More]

Tracked on Jun 14, 2006 1:21:03 AM

» U.S.-aided warlords face siege from poised yesterday
- An increasingly powerful Islamic militia was poised yesterday to attack the remnants of a U.S.-backed alliance of warlords that was desperately [Read More]

Tracked on Jun 15, 2006 12:37:59 AM

» A Hollywood Buddy Picture, Now Playing in Miami from now: two men
each predicted when they first arrived in Miami, reports Liz Robbins of THE NEW YORK TIMES. [Read More]

Tracked on Jun 16, 2006 11:30:28 PM

» India - VHP's Call for Hindu-Christian Front Against Islam is an Expression of Islamophobia from and Secular Parties
overnment and Secular Parties should Condemn this Anti-National Call... [Read More]

Tracked on Jun 18, 2006 12:04:52 AM

» British Indian Muslims Deplore the Ruthless Killing of Hindus in Kashmir from by now they should
tension in India, then by now they should have realised that Indian society is too mature to play in their hands... [Read More]

Tracked on Jun 20, 2006 9:37:36 PM

» India - Indian Muslim Politics and People's democratic front from Political Parties
some Muslim Political Parties having coalesced in the shape of a broader conglomeration.... [Read More]

Tracked on Jun 21, 2006 8:46:25 PM

» 'Complicated grief' suggested as new diagnosis from ead full story
ead full story for latest details. [Read More]

Tracked on Jun 28, 2006 4:08:33 AM

» Oracle Profit Jumps 27 Percent to $1.3B from fourth quarter
fourth quarter profit jumps 27 percent to $1.3 billion, topping forecasts [Read More]

Tracked on Jun 28, 2006 10:38:54 PM

» Siemens, Russia's Start Telecom end testing WiMAX equip from June 29 (Prime-Tass)
-- Russian telecommunications company Start Telecom has completed testing the WiM... [Read More]

Tracked on Jun 30, 2006 1:51:17 PM

» Miami vs. Dallas Game 1 Postgame Analysis from down the Game
1 results from the 2006 NBA Finals between the Miami Heat and Dallas Mavericks. [Read More]

Tracked on Jul 1, 2006 6:56:23 AM

» EnCana revives Nova Scotia's offshore hopes from will breathe
Nova Scotia government hopes a new deal with EnCana Corp. will breathe life into the province's floundering [Read More]

Tracked on Jul 2, 2006 5:42:39 AM

» Close Shave for the Hoff (E! Online) from E! Online -
E! Online - Another feeling David Hasselhoff wasnt able to stop: pain. [Read More]

Tracked on Jul 3, 2006 8:22:25 AM

» Searcher from Full Catalog
Need some help with your search? Please click on How to search. ... Use the search criteria below to narrow your search. ... [Read More]

Tracked on Jul 15, 2006 4:05:58 AM

» Victoria Respects Humble Wishes of Suns' Nash from to two-time NBA
If you're the city of Victoria -- hometown to two-time NBA most-valuable player Steve Nash -- you add a basketball court and beef up the playground [Read More]

Tracked on Jul 24, 2006 10:26:17 AM

» The Mideast Journalism News You Missed, Or How We Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Backrub from early Wednesday
think viewers have about the Middle East? We asked Richard Roth and Sharyn Alfonsi [Read More]

Tracked on Jul 24, 2006 12:00:44 PM

» Leading Indicators End Recent Decline, Rise Slightly from of Leading Economic
Board's Index of Leading Economic Indicators rose 0.1 percent in June following declines in April and May. [Read More]

Tracked on Jul 27, 2006 8:35:53 AM

» Man killed in Co Cork collision from are investigating
are investigating a road accident in Co Cork in which a 32-year-old man was killed. [Read More]

Tracked on Aug 7, 2006 6:29:26 PM

» Figo And Pauleta Announce International Retirement from to end my international
all." - Luis Figo (127 caps) "This is the saddest day of my career. Playing for this team, [Read More]

Tracked on Aug 7, 2006 9:15:11 PM

» Border agents let fake IDs go through (AP) from investigators
fake documents repeatedly this year including some cases in which Homeland Security [Read More]

Tracked on Aug 8, 2006 1:57:15 AM

» Report: Meat Now America's No. 2 Condiment from spreadable veal
helped the up-and-comer best Big Three standards salsa and mayonnaise for the first time. read more [Read More]

Tracked on Aug 8, 2006 6:16:20 AM

» 700G SoHo gem robbery from got away with
as much as $700,000 from a lower Manhattan posh jewelry store that caters to the stars. [Read More]

Tracked on Aug 8, 2006 5:05:05 PM

» Iowa Joins Maine, Vermont In Prescription Drug Purchasing Pool from for Medicaid
and Vermont in a purchasing pool that will negotiate lower-cost prescription drugs for Medicaid [Read More]

Tracked on Aug 10, 2006 1:47:34 PM

» Spy's Death Won't Help Northern Ireland Relations, Irish Pre from in Northern Ireland
deal in Northern Ireland more difficult, Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern told lawmakers Wednesday. [Read More]

Tracked on Aug 10, 2006 4:56:43 PM


Ok, so you worked your way up and you think you deserve the merit that you have. Great. What particular career did you use to leverage yourself into that merit? That career path is gone now. Oh, kids will still take that path, but the smart ones, the ones that will be exemplers of merit in twenty years, won't travel that path. They will have to do something else.

Posted by: David Locke | Feb 2, 2005 2:57:11 AM

Oh dear.... now even The Economist is suspect if you're a conservative?

Posted by: Bob | Apr 20, 2005 10:02:06 PM

"From a personal standpoint, I find the Economist article very off base. Every week I meet close to approximately 10 companies"

Could someone please translate "close to approximately 10" for me? I have no idea what this means.

Could the author also please tell us how many of the half of the "close to apporixmately 10" founders CAME to the US with college degrees?

Is this too much to ask?

Posted by: niblo | Apr 20, 2005 10:05:35 PM

Dear Niblo:

Thanks for placing a comment without actually leaving your actual contact info. Great to see that you are actually open and honest. Also thanks for correcting my grammatical error and while we are on the topic perhaps you would not mind if I mention you misspelled approximately . . .

Posted by: Venky Ganesan | Apr 21, 2005 9:34:29 AM

Sorry, bud, but sarcasm is not an adequate response to my question.

As for misspelling, you might have noticed that I did spell "approximately" correctly the first time I used the word, and might therefore have concluded that the second - incorrect - spelling was a typo.

So, that said, how many of those "close to approximately 10 company founders" had college degrees when they came to the US?

BTW, I didn't correct a grammatical error, I only pointed out that the sentence in question defies comprehension. I'm still waiting for you to explain what you meant.

And the more important question isn't meritocracy but mobility. I have yet to see one study conducted in the US that shows mobility is increasing, or even remaining steady.

Posted by: niblo | Apr 21, 2005 12:25:44 PM

Its fair to ask what I meant - I meant that I meet close to 10 companies every week and around half of them are founded by immigrants. Of these immigrant founders I would say more than 75% had college degrees before coming to the US. The rest probably came to the US and then went to college.

There is a difference between mobility and meritocracy. I think we care most about making sure that people who are meritorius have a chance to move up. Lack of mobility by itself is not sufficient to show that meritocracy does not exist in America

Posted by: Venky Ganesan | Apr 21, 2005 1:20:14 PM

My point was that immigrants who come to the US with college degrees (like myself) would be expected to succeed anyway. They already have the skills to achieve mobility.

My complaint - if that's the right word - is that the best universities are closed to working-class students because they can't afford to pay for it. Many of my community college students could never afford the tuition at an Ivy League college, event though they deserve the opportunity. Scholarships aren't the answer, as they are few in number and those wo get them are themselves the children of wealthy parents.

We need to ask ourselves whether we want to live in a society where inherited wealth is a surrogate for meritocracy.

I say no on this.

Posted by: niblo | Apr 21, 2005 2:22:09 PM

27 annuity sell

Posted by: sell home annuity | Feb 1, 2008 3:11:42 PM

Enjoyed the diary, although I, too, about End of Meritocracy in America - I think not. tHanks

Posted by: Buy Viagra | Dec 3, 2009 7:35:58 AM

hello people want to express my satisfaction with this blog very creative and I really like the views of the focus very good indeed

Posted by: Generic Cialis | Dec 21, 2009 1:42:56 PM

I find the Economist article very off base. Every week I meet close to approximately 10 companies looking for money and more than half of them have been founded by entrepreneurs who are immigrants or folks from modest backgrounds.

Posted by: online pharmacy | Apr 13, 2010 7:01:40 AM

I just hope that all not fair attitude finishes against human being, ironically, caused by us.

Posted by: Generic Viagra | Nov 5, 2010 11:02:48 AM

loved it, will be waiting for your future posts
Thank you for sharing

Posted by: generic viagra | Jan 20, 2011 3:37:54 AM

Sometimes I think that who has the time in the world to reach a blog. But I was sadly mistaken when I read your article. Oh my god! Your blog is like a superlative and informative article containing all-inclusive information.

Posted by: Generic Viagra | Feb 21, 2011 10:12:55 PM

Wow, nice post,there are many person searching about that now they will find enough resources by your post.Thank you for sharing to us.Please one more post about that..

Posted by: Kamagra | Feb 23, 2011 12:36:41 AM

Great tips, I would like to join your blog anyway,

Posted by: ガバペン | Mar 10, 2011 2:11:39 AM

Really you have done great job,There are may person searching about that now they will find enough resources by your post,

Posted by: Networking solutions | Mar 10, 2011 3:20:48 AM

Hola,Ha hecho un trabajo muy bueno. Hay muchas personas en busca de eso ahora van a encontrar suficientes fuentes por tus consejos.espera para obtener más consejos acerca de que

Posted by: Generic Dramamine | Mar 12, 2011 5:25:41 AM

Really great post, Thank you for sharing This knowledge.Thank you very much for sharing this knowledge.this graph really conveyed the part which i was looking for.

Posted by: careprost | Mar 18, 2011 1:09:40 AM

I can give your blog a link presented to you?

I tried to contact you, but I can not reach the

issue seems to you, your reaction time, there is

a time, thank you.


Posted by: yoyo | Mar 29, 2011 1:14:51 AM

End of Meritocracy in America - I think not!!!
nice post
With Best Regards
interior design ideas
home furniture
interior design

Posted by: interior design ideas | Apr 20, 2011 9:15:47 AM

There are may person searching about that now they will find enough resources by your post,

Posted by: Seo Services India | Apr 27, 2011 4:50:23 AM

This post is full of great resources that I appreciate.

Posted by: Suzi Chin Dresses | May 7, 2011 4:46:10 PM

With all the budget cuts in education, I wonder why.

Posted by: Jessica Simpson Dresses | May 13, 2011 9:16:20 AM

I really think people need to strive to do better.


Posted by: Betsey Johnson Watches | May 14, 2011 10:32:07 AM

The comments to this entry are closed.