The Meritocracy Myth Essay

777 Words4 Pages
“Everyone can succeed as long as they work hard”. How many times has that statement been heard? The Meritocracy Myth by McNamee and Miller, challenges the widely held American belief in meritocracy - that people get out of the system what they put into it based on individual merit. The common misconception is that the American system distributes resources – primarily wealth and income – based on individual merit. It is widely believed that this is how the system works – and that the ideology is that individual merit is based on “combination of factors including innate abilities, working hard, having the right attitude, and having high moral character and integrity” (McNamee and Miller 277). McNamee and Miller argue that there is a gap in how people think the system works and how it actually does work and have defined this gap as the meritocracy myth. Their argument has two parts. First, that “the impact of merit on economic outcomes is vastly overestimated by the ideology of the American Dream” (McNamee and Miller 277). Secondly, they identify a number of "non-merit" factors that counteract the effects of merit and create barriers to individual mobility. McNamee and Miller then identify several ways they feel America can be a more meritocratic society. McNamee and Miller reference the 2003 study done by Kenneickell that demonstrates their argument that the distributions of wealth and income are skewed, with the top 20 percent of households receiving a large portion of the total available income. While 20 percent does not sound like a large foothold, keep in mind that those 20 percent, receive 49.7 percent of the available income. Tess, for all intents and purposes, should be living the American Dream and benefiting from the meri... ... middle of paper ... ...e that great effect on economic outcomes, it relies heavily on the premise that such goals would be viewed as something desirable and politically feasible. It is widely believed that a meritocratic society will actually cause more harm than good. The authors note that “the myth of meritocracy is itself harmful because by discounting the most important causes of inequality it leads to unwarranted exaltation of the rich and unwarranted condemnation of the poor” (McNamee and Miller 284). If we want to make societal change, we must first work on ourselves before attempting to change other areas that are affected by the meritocracy myth. We must address our own beliefs and how they may affect our behaviors. Pure meritocracy will probably never fully integrate into our everyday lives, but by addressing it consistently, some of the possible side effects can be reduced.
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