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Inequality, incompetents and grade inflation: does meritocracy work?


Inequality, incompetents and grade inflation: does meritocracy work?

This is a digital only ThinkIn. 

Meritocracy is a founding principle in Western culture. The idea appeals to our sense of fairness and equity, our reverence for hard work and talent, our objection to entitlement and mediocrity. Of course, perfect meritocracy needs to be underpinned by the kind of level playing field that, arguably, simply doesn’t exist. Daniel Markovits argued in his 2020 book The Meritocracy Trap that our enduring belief in meritocracy is ruining our lives, fuelling despair and blame amongst those with the least privilege and hubris amongst those born lucky. Adrian Wooldridge’s new book The Aristocracy of Talent takes the opposite view, arguing the case for a ‘moral meritocracy’ that truly rewards both talent and hard-work. Join us, with Daniel and Adrian, for a ThinkIn to debate who’s right and to explore the implications of both perspectives on the way we live our lives.

Buy Daniel’s book, The Meritocracy Trap

Buy Adrian’s book, The Aristocracy of Talent

editor and invited experts

James Harding
Co-founder and Editor

Adrian Wooldridge
Political Editor at the Economist and author of its Bagehot column. Adrian has also worked as the Economist’s American bureau chief and author of the Lexington column, and management editor and author of the Schumpeter column. Author of The Aristocracy of Talent (2021)

Daniel Markovits
Guido Calabresi Professor of Law at Yale Law School. Daniel works in the philosophical foundations of private law, moral and political philosophy, and behavioural economics. Author of The Meritocracy Trap (2019)