What If There Is No Meritocracy?

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The realization that life isn't as fair as democracy obliges us to pretend it is ought to cool populist passions rather than intensifying them.

NRPLUS MEMBER ARTICLE T here are not many contemporary phenomena that have one-word explanations, and even fewer that have one-word explanations that are not “gravity” or “whiskey.” But if you want a one-word explanation for the ugly, stupid, vicious populism that has overtaken our politics, try this one: meritocracy.

It should not surprise us that the people at the top believe very strongly in meritocracy. The well-off already enjoy the best of everything, and the feeling of virtue is one more exclusive pleasure for elite consumption. It is not enough to settle into a nice first-class seat and enjoy a glass of champagne — for

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